thoughts and observations of a privacy, security and internet researcher, activist, and policy advisor

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

EU Proposal puts Confidential Communications Data at Risk

Here is an international press release I was involved in creating. The negotiations at EU level are humming already, there is a trilogue about this on Thursday. We in Germany also greatly appreciate this help, because there is a similar draft bill underway on the fast-track in the German parliament right now.

Press release by La Quadrature du Net, European Digital Rights (EDRi), Working Group on Data Retention (AK Vorrat), and, 2009-01-28:

EU proposal puts confidential communications data at risk

Civil liberties groups La Quadrature du Net, European Digital Rights (EDRi), AK Vorrat, and are urging the European Parliament to heed advice given by the European Data Protection Supervisor Peter Hustinx and scrap plans dubbed "voluntary data retention".

"A proposal currently discussed in the European Parliament as part of the 'telecom package' would allow providers to collect a potentially unlimited amount of sensitive, confidential communications data including our telephone and e-mail contacts, the geographic position of our mobile phones and the websites we visit on the Internet", warns Patrick Breyer of German privacy watchdog AK Vorrat. "Apart from the creation of vast data pools that could go far beyond what is being collected under the directive on data retention, the proposal would also permit the passing on of traffic data to other companies for 'security purposes'. We must not let a potentially unlimited amount of confidential data be exposed to risks of disclosure or abuse in this way."

"This proposal is lobbied for under the guise of 'security', but what it really means is that users and citizens would have no expectation of privacy on the Internet anymore," adds Ralf Bendrath from EDRi. "This is a clear breach of the European tradition of considering privacy a fundamental human right."

In a paper published earlier this month, European Data Protection Supervisor Peter Hustinx joined the critics, warning the proposal would constitute a "risk of abuse" and "may be interpreted as enabling the collection and processing of traffic data for security purposes for an unspecified period of time." Hustinx reached "the conclusion that the best outcome would be for the proposed Article 6.6(a) to be deleted altogether" - a view firmly shared by La Quadrature du Net, EDRi, and AK Vorrat.

"A few months before the elections, citizens will have the opportunity to see if the Members of European Parliament are willing to protect their privacy", declares Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder of the citizen's initiative La Quadrature du Net. "Every citizen should inform their MEPs and ask them to massively reject this article 6 (6a) of the ePrivacy directive. Other crucial issues about content and network neutrality are at stake as well. We must remind MEPs that they were elected to protect Europeans' fundamental rights and freedom rather than abolishing them in favour of particular interests."

In a letter of September last year, 11 German civil liberties, journalists, lawyers and consumer protection organisations "urgently" asked the Commission, the Council and Parliament to scrap the proposed article 6 (6a) and "maintain the successful regulation of traffic data" which they say has "proven to constitute the best guarantee for our safety in information society."

Background paper by Working Group on Data Retention

About us:

La Quadrature du Net (Squaring the Net) is a France-based citizen group informing about legislative projects menacing civil liberties as well as economic and social development in the digital age. It became well known in the summer of 2008 for putting the spotlight on draft provisions in the EU telecom package that would allow a private, unaccountable regime for cutting citizens off the internet for alleged copyright infringements. Home page:

EDRi is an association of 29 privacy and civil rights organisations from 18 different countries in Europe, who have joined forces to defend civil rights in the information society. Among other activites, EDRi is well known for its bi-weekly EDRi-Gram newsletter with world-wide readership. Home page:

The Working Group on Data Retention (AK Vorrat) is a German association of civil rights and privacy activists and Internet users. Among other activities, it organized the biggest privacy protest in German history in October 2008 with more than 50,000 participants. Home page: is the most-linked political blog in German and a political plattform for digital rights. It has received several national and international awards. Home page:


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