Phone, internet use details now to be kept for two years
Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said yesterday he would introduce new European legislation, requiring telephone operators to store details of all phone calls made for two years, rather than the three years currently mandated under Irish legislation.
The transposition of the EU data retention directive into Irish law will also force internet service providers to store details on all text messages, e-mails and internet sites visited by people.
“The Minister has noted today’s judgment of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in relation to the data retention directive. Preparation for transposing the directive is at an advanced stage,” said a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice. The decision by Mr Ahern follows an important ruling yesterday by the ECJ, which dismissed an Irish appeal against the 2006 EU data retention directive.
This directive was introduced in the wake of the July 7th, 2005, terrorist attacks in London to ensure all European telephone and internet providers stored data for possible use in police investigations for a minimum of six months and a maximum of two years.
But some countries, such as Ireland with its three-year rule, had already introduced tough laws on storage to enable police to track criminals.
Despite being a leading proponent for EU-wide legislation mandating the storage of telecoms data for criminal investigations, the Government objected to the way the directive was introduced by EU member states.
The EU chose the so-called “community method” as the legal base for the directive – a method used for laws relating to the protection of the single market. It also gives the European courts the power to force EU states to introduce the legislation and comply with all its measures.
The Government argued to the ECJ that member states should have agreed the legislation under the EU’s crime and judicial affairs pillar, which would have given each EU state a veto over the law and prevented the ECJ from ruling on cases involving the law.
It argued the directive’s main aim was to help fight crime, rather than contribute to the functioning of the internal market by providing a level playing field for telecoms firms.
However, the ECJ dismissed its arguments, finding that “the aim of combating crime is not the sole, or even the predominant, objective of that directive”.
The ECJ ordered Ireland to pay costs in the case.
The European Commission said it welcomed the judgment yesterday and noted Ireland was planning to transpose the directive. In 2007, the commission initiated legal action against Ireland and four other states for failing to properly transpose the directive.
New Bill will allow data obtained outside legal guidelines to be used
PHONE CALL, e-mail and internet information obtained outside legal guidelines could still be used for investigations under proposals in a new Bill on storing and accessing electronic data.
In the heads of a Bill seen by The Irish Times , a proposed clause on “Disclosure Requests” allows data that is later deemed to have been obtained outside the remit of the legislation to be used.
It states: “A disclosure request shall not be invalid by reason only of a failure to comply with this section.”
The Government originally intended to introduce the changes in the law by way of statutory instrument, which would have sidestepped the need for Dáil scrutiny or a vote on the measures.
However, it is understood to have opted for primary legislation on data retention after receiving legal advice that the alternative approach could raise constitutional issues.
The Department of Justice also proposes to redefine serious crime from the current definition of a crime punishable by a minimum sentence of five years, to any crime with a minimum sentence of 12 months.
The proposed legislation also places data security and management requirements on the service providers that hold call and internet data, but does not state who will pay for those costs.