Don't Spy On Us responses to ECJ ruling on the Data Retention Directive

A number of the groups behind the Don't Spy On Us campaign have welcomed today's declaration by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that the Data Retention Directive is invalid and no longer legally binding.

The Court found that the Directive severely interferes with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data. The judgement was unequivocal: laws allowing for indiscriminate, blanket retention on this scale are completely unacceptable. The 2006 directive was introduced allegedly to help investigations into serious crime and terrorism but there were no restrictions to prevent it from being used for less serious misdemeanours, such as copyright breaches. Under the Directive, telecoms companies were obliged to collect and retain location and traffic data about phone calls, text messages, emails and internet use and retain that information for between six months and two years. The Court found that the Directive failed to state criteria that would ensure data was only kept for as long as is strictly necessary.

The ruling was prompted by two separate cases brought by Digital Rights Ireland and an Austrian group,  which includes privacy activists AK Vorrat Austria.

Open Rights Group Executive Director, Jim Killock said:

'Today’s ruling recognises that blanket data collection interferes with our privacy rights.  We must now see the repeal of national legislation that obliges telecoms companies to collect data about our personal phone calls, text messages, emails and internet usage. This collection is indiscriminate and reverses the presumption of innocent until proven guilty.'

Emma Carr, Deputy Director of Big Brother Watch said:

“This is a landmark case. It is a basic principle of a free society that you don’t monitor people who are not under suspicion. The EU’s data retention laws privatised snooping and meant companies were paid by governments to record what we were doing and were required to store those records for a year. The Snoopers Charter has been rejected in the court of public opinion and now it has been rejected by the highest court in Europe. We need to get back to a point where the police monitor people who are actually suspected of wrong doing and rather than wasting millions every year requiring data to be stored on an indiscriminate basis.”

Privacy International issued a statement:

"What the Snowden revelations have showed us over the past year is that the international surveillance apparatus set up by intelligence agencies is in direct conflict with human rights. If the Data Retention Directive fails to meet the requirements of human rights law, then the mass surveillance programs operated by the US and UK governments must equally be in conflict with the right to privacy. This decision is a turning of the tide and suggests that the British Government’s position on the legitimacy of its surveillance operations is losing favour."

James Welch, the Legal Director of Liberty said:

"Knowing the every detail of our communications creates an extremely intimate portrait of our lives. In this hugely welcome and significant judgment, the Court criticised the blanket nature of the obligation to retain communications data and the lack of safeguards, particularly as to who can authorise access.  Mass snooping of this type has no place in an internet-age democracy – our government must clean up its act.”

The ruling supports the earlier Opinion of Advocate General, Cruz Villalon, who in December 2013 found that the Directive was incompatible with the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. At the time he proposed that the EU should be allowed time to adopt new legislation that would rectify the invalidity of the Directive. However today’s ruling found that the Directive is invalid with immediate effect.

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