EU Committee Approves Telecom Data Storage Rules

By Huw Jones

A European Union parliament committee voted on Thursday to keep details of all EU-wide telephone calls and Internet use for six months to a year to help combat terrorism and serious crime.

Telecoms firms typically store data for three months for billing customers, but some member states such as Britain want data to be kept for much longer.

The European Parliament's civil liberties committee voted by 33 to eight in favor of the new rules, with five abstentions.

The full Parliament will vote on the measures in December, and member state approval will also be needed before the rules become law.

Alexander Alvaro, the German liberal legislator in charge of the bill in parliament, said after the vote that a more balanced text had emerged, compared with what the European Commission proposed and with what some member states want.

"Everything that makes this directive proportionate and balanced is now in, especially concerning the limitation of data types, limitation on storage period, safeguards on access and sanctions," Alvaro told Reuters after the vote.

"It had a two-thirds majority in committee, and I think this is a quite realistic estimation for plenary too," Alvaro added.

"Now Council (member states) will have to move."


Britain, the current EU president, wants rules on retaining telephone and Internet usage details agreed between member states and the parliament by the end of the year.

Britain sees the rules as an important way to tackle terrorism and other serious crime, made more urgent after the deadly bomb attacks on Madrid last year and on London in July.

In Thursday's vote, the committee also voted that member states should reimburse telecoms firms for the additional costs of complying with the new rules.

The lawmakers also voted in favor of inserting a new provision in the bill to ensure "effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties" for infringements of the rules.

The committee also agreed that only a judge could authorize access to telephone and Internet traffic, a condition absent in the Commission proposal.

"The Council has about 10 key flashpoints. They have problems with the costs, the limitations on types of data, and they have problems with access to data and the sanctions," Alvaro said.

Details on a fixed-line call would include name and address of caller, number dialed, name and address of the receiver, the date and the start and completion times of the call.

Details of a mobile phone call would include the subscriber's identity number or SIM card and the location at the start of the call.

Internet data would include the IP address of the computer, telephone number of connection to Internet, name and address of the subscriber and the date and time of logging in and off.

The committee voted to make it optional to record information about uncompleted calls, while the Council would like that to be mandatory.

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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