Being in the EU is a bit like the old Monty Python movie “The Life of Brian”, when they are sitting in the arena asking “What have the Romans ever done for us?”…..
With the EU and European systems – Common Market, European Courts etc. it’s often a difficult call to see any direct impact on the IT Industry. Especially, when European courts and the UK system are at odds.
For example, the European Court of Justice has ruled that the European Data Retention Directive which forces ISPs to collect the metadata on electronic messaging is actually ‘invalid’. Whilst they admitted there is some usefulness of this data in the fighting of crime, the directive was vague as to who could have access to this information, how it could be used and that in practice the collection and retention of this data for 2 years was too long and that the whole thing was ‘disproportionate’ to the main aims of fighting crime and terrorism.
Meanwhile in the UK on the 28th of April, in a Parliamentary reply given by Karen Bradley – a Home Office junior minister, it was stated “The retention of communications data is absolutely fundamental to ensure law enforcement have the powers they need to investigate crime, protect the public and ensure national security”. It certainly was being exercised…. Last year over 550,000 times in fact the authorities paid the ISPs to answer questions for this data. Interestingly, the Home Office stated that these costs are “not available publicly”.
In theory primary legislation (Acts of Parliament) could confirm the state’s power to collect and use such data – but with the upcoming election, the coalition and the recent MEP election results, this is not expected to happen any time soon.
So, with the Home Office saying one thing and the European Court of Justice on the other hand still maintaining the Data Retention Directive as invalid there seems to be an impasse. With no official Government statement finalising the position the Information Commissioner’s Office the watchdog in these matters believes the only one moving forward here is the European Court of Justice, and this is an important step. But, in the meantime with no official UK Government response they are going to sit on the side lines, and see IF the Government make an Official Response before they are prepared to move…