Irish Daily Mail
By Simon Creer

Revenue Commissioners will soon be allowed to spy on the phone bill and web records of millions of innocent citizens.

Powers are already making their way through the Dail are so sweeping that the data watchdog is to challenge them.

In regulations usually associated with secret police and security services around the world , the tax investigators will face no external supervision.

They will be able to access peoples phone records on request. The commissioner bill retention of data 2009 has already passed through the report and final stages in the dail and the second stage in the seanad.

If made law it will give the taxman data that includes telephone records, internet usage and location information. (GSM Cell site analysis). The revenue will simply request the records of those they are investigating and the service provider will be required to hand them over.

The new powers have caused widespread alarm among critics who say proper checks and balances are needed to prevent unauthorised trawling of phone and interned use. Speaking ahead of the planned meeting of the Justice Select Committee with the data commissioner labour justice spokesman Pat Rabbitt critized the law.

Digital Rights a guardian of civil, human and legal rights has challenged the legality of the regulation, which has been referred to the European Court of Justice. The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner has said the Proposals amount to possible disproportionate access’ Its believed the Government has gone beyond the requirements of a European directive making its new law.

A Statement from the Data commissioner “Such an expansion is not required by the terms of the European directive which leaves it up to member states to designate competent authorities.”

The justice select commissioner intends to speak to the commissioner and address his concerns. But no date has been fixed for the meeting. However Mr Rabbitte has said “Where there is reasonable cause I have no problem with the revenue accessing information but there has to be some objective test of what that is.

It just cannot whimsical or arbitrary, there has to be protection for the citizen.

The Final Gael justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan said “I would be very concerned at any unsupervised abuse of any new laws but I think it is important that modern technology is used to detect crime and that is why these powers are given.

Fears of draconian access to personal data in Ireland were heightened after a leaked report from the European Commissioner showed that in 2008 Gardai were asked to see records of 14’000 people while police in Germany which has a much bigger population made fewer than 13’000 requests.

The Judges have this week passed the case upwards to the European court of Justice, after the High Court agreed that the case involved fundamental issues of privacy but it could be as long as two years before the case is heard.


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