Newspaper article International New York Times

E.U. Court Cites Privacy in Rejecting a Data Law

Newspaper article International New York Times

E.U. Court Cites Privacy in Rejecting a Data Law

Article excerpt

The law, adopted in response to deadly terrorist attacks, required telecommunications companies to retain information about calls and emails.

A top court on Tuesday struck down a European Union law, adopted in response to deadly terrorist attacks, that required telecommunications companies to retain information about calls and emails for up to two years.

The European Union passed the law in 2006 after bombings on the mass transit systems in London and Madrid, with the goal of aiding security forces tracking suspects of terrorism and other serious crimes. The retained data typically indicates who was involved in the communication, where they were and how often they communicated, but it does not reveal the content of the conversations or messages.

But the law "exceeded the limits" of proportionality, according to the European Court of Justice, based in Luxembourg.

Privacy advocates in Ireland and Austria had pressed their home governments to pursue the case, which had gained urgency in light of disclosures in the past year of widespread electronic surveillance in Europe by the National Security Agency in the United States.

The court said that the law, known as the Data Retention Directive, "interferes in a particularly serious manner with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data."

Any law must not go beyond "what is strictly necessary," the court said.

Lawmakers at the European Parliament immediately called for a system that would do a better job of balancing privacy rights with the needs of security agencies. …

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