19 December 2005 European legislators have finally agreed controversial rules governing how long European telecom and Internet services will have to store customer data.
The Data Retention directive was finally approved by a 65% majority of MEPs last week. It is now expected that European countries will begin incorporating the directive into national laws in 2006.
Under the directive, telecoms and Internet service providers (ISP) will be obliged to record details of all their customers’ IP addresses, unanswered calls, their Internet connection times and their personal details. Emails, however, do not have to be retained in full.
In advance of the MEPs approval of the directive, a paragraph was removed that obliged EU member states to reimburse telcos and ISPs for the cost of this data retention. Instead, the bill will be paid by the service providers themselves.
Civil liberties bodies and political organisations such as the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, opposed the directive amid fears that the data could be misused by government agencies. The Irish government are expected to challenge the directive in court.
UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke welcomed the directive, saying that the data that would now be retained would invaluable for tackling terrorism and organised crime.