Data retention petition in European Union

by Andy Oram

Related link:

The idea of collecting and mining enormous (unfathomably enormous)
amounts of data for information about crime goes back a long way, but
recent terror attacks have made it more appealing to many people.

I talked to one privacy rights advocate about the London bombings of
July 7, and asked whether he would re-evaluate the privacy community's
stance against public surveillance cameras, since these cameras proved
critical in figuring out who did the bombings. He admitted that we're
likely to see more and more cameras now--at the cost of millions and
millions of dollars that could go toward more effective anti-crime

But he also pointed out, "These cameras might help investigate and
prosecute terror after it happens, but they won't be effective at
preventing terror, except for the deterrent effect." (Well, there's
also the gain of capturing people who helped terror.)

Now the call for the digital equivalent of surveillance cameras, data
retention on networks, is growing. A European Commission directive
wants all network operators to keep traffic information for one
year. This is not Echelon, slurping up everything you say or do. It
means that mobile telephone providers will record all the digits you
press, and that Internet providers will record the addresses you
go. This probably records such "traffic" as the search terms you enter
at web sites.

The objection to these practices has always been that they may be
turned against you. Safeguards such as warrants tend to get weakened
under political pressure; law enforcement either wins examptions from
oversight or just ignores laws about oversight. The data is also a
sitting duck for other malicious snoopers.

The article referenced above gives more information about a petition
against data retention. If you live in the European Union and want to
sign the petition, visit

the site for signing

I think that if we ever calm down and seriously talk about how to stop
terror, one of the major strategies will involve "human int" (having
people embedded in the organizations that are potentially
dangerous). This, of course, leads to its own human rights issues;
moles can also be used abusively. But it's a very low-tech solution;
one that involves getting closer to and building trust with the
communities where terror is likely to grow. It requires holding back
from shooting dark-skinned men just because they act suspiciously, and
doing other things to show that society wants all its residents to be
full-fledged members.


2005-07-31 14:22:57
Editorial correction request
Your petition link points to:

Notice that the language parameter is egg. The result is that nothing but the form shows up on the page.

It needs to be eng for English:

2005-07-31 15:50:36
Editorial correction request
Thanks, I fixed the original.