EU Executive Wants Phone Logs for One Year

A bill for mandatory logging of emails, phone calls and other electronic communications to combat terrorism and fraud will limit data storage to a year at most, the European Commission said on Wednesday.

Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Information Society and Media, said a similar proposal put forward by four member states in 2004 wanted data to be stored for three to four years, which she said would impose a costly burden on phone and internet companies.

France, Ireland, the UK and Sweden made their proposal in April last year in the aftermath of the Madrid train bombings, which killed 191 people. The seizure of phone records was credited with helping police make quick arrests.

Under the member states' proposal, the actual content of conversations, text messages or emails would not be kept. Records are currently kept for three months by telephone companies for billing purposes.

"It will certainly not be three to four years but a maximum of one year and I hope even less," Reding told reporters.

Reding said legal advisers for the member states have concluded that such a bill should be proposed by the Commission rather than member states.

For bills proposed by the Commission, joint agreement between member states and the European Parliament is needed for it to become law, a process that would be more transparent and consider issues wider than fighting terrorism, Reding said.

"We have to balance the security issue and the issue of privacy and commercial considerations," Reding said.

"That is why it's essential to start with a solid impact assessment before the Commission will put the proposal on the table," Reding said.

On Tuesday, EU diplomats said justice and interior ministers may agree their own proposal when they meet in Luxembourg this week if they agree on some outstanding issues such as how long data should be stored.

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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Lisa Minter
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