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Data retention has been a highly controversial topic for many years. Whilst many understand its necessity, there’s been debate and concern raised about the manner in which it is collated, stored and accessed as well as the Government’s ongoing plans (under various guises) to increase and change the level of information retained.

Neil Watson, Head of Service Operations[/caption]Therefore the ECJ’s recent ruling that the current EU Data Retention Directive is ‘invalid’ has reignited the debate and now has us all wondering what will happen to our own laws on this subject. Is it the end of the road for data retention?

We think it’s highly unlikely. While this ruling will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the UK’s legal standing and potentially affect the Government’s seemingly ongoing plans to increase and change the information required, the importance of such information in tackling criminal activity and potential security threats means we very much doubt this is the end of data retention. It just wouldn’t be practical.

To clarify, the current directive requires ISPs and telecoms providers to log all website, email and phone activity (not content) for up to two years where they’ve been directed by the Secretary of State. This information is then used by the police and security agencies to investigate criminal activity and potential terrorism. Over recent years the Government has tried (and failed) many times to increase the amount and type of information collated and the way in which it is accessed (currently via RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000)). This latest ECJ ruling is at least expected to have dealt any future expansion plans a major blow – much to the delight of the privacy advocates.

Jim Killock, Open Rights Group Executive Director, said “Today’s ruling recognises that blanket data collection interferes with our privacy rights. We must now see the repeal of national legislation that obliges telecoms companies to collect data about our personal phone calls, text messages, emails and internet usage. This collection is indiscriminate and reverses the presumption of innocent until proven guilty.”

For now at least, ISPA have confirmed that national law still applies and as such UK ISPs will continue to be required to collate basic information and provide this to the authorities when appropriately authorised e.g. via a RIPA notice. In this regard, the Association ‘has called on the Home Office to clarify what the judgement means for industry, and how it impacts other laws such as RIPA. ISPA will be working with members and colleagues in EuroISPA to make industry’s case to Government.’ (Source: ISPA News email, 1st May 2014)

Entanet welcomes the ECJ ruling from a privacy point of view. As we have discussed in previous articles on this subject, we have shared many concerns over the Government’s plans to expand the information that is collated and change the way in which it can be accessed. Whilst we understand the need to investigate such activity and not only guard against criminality but protect UK citizens, previous plans have left too much open to potential abuse. That said, we do and will continue to abide by the RIPA when required and completely appreciate and take seriously the role ISPs and telecoms providers play in the fight against such criminality. It will be interesting to see if and how the current UK laws will be affected by this ruling over the coming months – we will keep you posted.

Have your say

Data retention and the delicate balancing act between protecting privacy and ensuring our safety and security continues to encourage controversial debate. As a communications provider what do you think about the ECJ ruling and how do you think it will affect the UKs existing and future laws?

Do you welcome the ruling or do you believe the Government should tighten existing laws and make more information available to the security services and police? We’d love to hear your thoughts so please share your views with a comment below.

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