Today the European Commission adopted an evaluation report on the Data Retention Directive.  This Directive requires EU Member States to ensure that telecommunications service providers retain certain categories of data for the purpose of investigations, detection and prosecution of  serious crime, as defined by the national law of the Member States.  Since its adoption in 2006, the Directive has been the subject of much criticism and to date five Member States still have not transposed the Directive into their national laws. 

The European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmstrom, indicated that “our evaluation shows the importance of stored telecommunications data for criminal justice systems and for law enforcement”.  But she adds that data retention represents a significant limitation on the rights to privacy and the Commission therefore will consider more stringent rules for storage, access to and use of the retained data.  To that effect the Commission will enter into consultations with law enforcement authorities, the judiciary, data protection authorities, industry and civil society.  Malmstrom indicated that a proposal may come out later this year but the final version is “likely to be years away”. 

Data retention will not disappear, Malmstrom insisted, adding that even if EU legislation were scrapped, Member States would most likely have national laws on the books and operators would also keep data for commercial purposes.  While not everybody may agree with this viewpoint, the upcoming consultation in any case provides another opportunity for all interested parties to voice their concerns and make their views known.  An inserting debate, no doubt.