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EU Data Retention Laws May Be Illegal, Rules Austrian Court

BY Julia Wetherell | Wednesday, December 19 2012

On the tails of the U.K.’s deliberation on the Data Communications Bill, an Austrian court has ruled that the E.U.’s data retention policies could be illegal. The Data Retention Directive, which was implemented in 2006, mandates telecommunications providers in the E.U. to store data from mobile and online communications — which can be obtained by court order — for up to two years. The privacy of personal data for E.U. citizens is protected under Title II of the E.U.’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. IDG News parsed the Austrian court’s statement, which calls on the European Court of Justice to rule on the legality of data retention:

"We doubt that the E.U. Data Retention Directive is really compatible with the rights that are guaranteed by the E.U. Charter of Fundamental Rights," Gerhart Holzinger, president of the Constitutional Court of Austria said in a statement.

This ruling comes after the E.U. announced earlier this month that no new law-enforcement databases would be implemented in the near future, with current databases apparently working harmoniously to share information across member nations.

The same announcement also emphasized the need “to respect data protection rules,” yet called for a stronger and more centralized exchange of information through Europol. The Eurodac biometric ID system used to track asylum-seekers may soon be accessible to the police — a proposal that many MEPs in Parliament have decried, fearing it may criminalize those seeking harbor in the E.U. The strengthening of data sharing across the E.U. centralizes the efficiency of law enforcement, but it may do so at the expense of human rights.

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