EC evaluates the Directive on retention of telecommunications data

The European Commission adopted an evaluation report of the Data Retention Directive which established data retention as a response to urgent security challenges, following major terrorist attacks in Madrid in 2004 and in London in 2005. In concrete, it evaluates how Member States have transposed the Directive and assesses the use of retained data and the impact on operators and consumers.

The report concludes that retained telecommunications data play an important role in the protection of the public against the harm caused by serious crimes such as the terrorist attacks mentioned previously. They provide vital evidence in solving crimes and ensuring justice is served. Nonetheless, transposition of the Directive 2006/24/EC has been uneven and the remaining differences between the legislation of Member States create difficulties for telecommunication service providers. For example, retention periods vary between 6 months and 2 years, the purposes for which data may be accessed and used, and the legal procedures for accessing the data, vary considerably.

Moreover, this Directive also does not in itself guarantee that data are stored, retrieved and used in full compliance with the right to privacy and protection of personal data, and this has led courts to annul the legislation transposing the Directive in some Member States. For this reason, the Commission will review the current data retention rules, in consultation with the police and the judiciary, industry, data protection authorities, and civil society.

Law enforcement authorities in most Member States have reported to the Commission that retained data plays a central role in protecting the public against harm through effective criminal investigation. However, data protection authorities have criticised the directive on the grounds that it does not provide enough limitation of data retention and safeguards for how the data is stored, accessed and used. This is the reason to consult the interested parts in order to prepare a better legal framework. The results of the consultation will feed into an impact assessment as a basis for the future proposal.