Telecommunications data retention
In the field of telecommunications, data retention (or data preservation) generally refers to the storage of call detail records (CDRs) of telephony and internet traffic and transaction data (IPDRs) by governments and commercial organisations. In the case of government data retention, the data that is stored is usually of telephone calls made and received, emails sent and received and web sites visited. Location data is also collected.
The primary objective in government data retention is traffic analysis and mass surveillance. By analysing the retained data, governments can identify the locations of individuals, an individual's associates and the members of a group such as political opponents. These activities may or may not be lawful, depending on the constitutions and laws of each country. In many jurisdictions access to these databases may be made by a government with little or no judicial oversight (e.g. USA, UK, Australia).
In the case of commercial data retention, the data retained will usually be on transactions and web sites visited.
Data retention also covers data collected by other means (e.g. by automatic numberplate recognition systems) and held by government and commercial organisations.
- 1 European Union
- 2 Norway
- 3 Serbia
- 4 United States
- 5 Australia
- 6 Commercial data retention
- 7 Arguments against data retention
- 8 Protection against data retention
- 9 Initiative against extensive data retention
- 10 Plans for extending data retention to social networks
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 External links
On 15 March 2006 the European Union adopted the Data Retention Directive, on "the retention of data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks and amending Directive 2002/58/EC". The Directive requires Member States to ensure that communications providers retain, for a period of between 6 months and 2 years, necessary data as specified in the Directive
- to trace and identify the source of a communication;
- to trace and identify the destination of a communication;
- to identify the date, time and duration of a communication;
- to identify the type of communication;
- to identify the communication device;
- to identify the location of mobile communication equipment.
The data is required to be available to "competent" national authorities in specific cases, "for the purpose of the investigation, detection and prosecution of serious crime, as defined by each Member State in its national law".
The Directive covers fixed telephony, mobile telephony, Internet access, Internet email and Internet telephony. Member States were required to transpose it into national law within 18 months - i.e. no later than September 2007. However, they may if they wish postpone the application of the Directive to Internet access, Internet email and Internet telephony for a further 18 months after this date. A majority of Member States exercised this option. To date  26 Member States have transposed the Directive, one (Sweden) has yet to transpose and three (Romania, Germany, Czech Republic) had previously transposed until their respective courts ruled the national transposing laws to be unconstitutional.
A report evaluating the Directive was published by the European Commission in April 2011.
It concluded that data retention was a valuable tool for ensuring criminal justice and public protection, but that it had achieved only limited harmonisation. There were serious concerns from service providers about the compliance costs and from civil society organisations who claim that mandatory data retention was an unacceptable infringement of the fundamental right to privacy and the protection of personal data. The Commission is now reviewing the legislation.
In response to the report, on May 31, 2011, the European Data Protection Supervisor expressed some on the European Data Retention Directive, underlining that the Directive “does not meet the requirements imposed by the fundamental rights to privacy and data protection”.
Like the rest of the EU the UK is subject to the European Union's Data Retention Directive. All telecommunications data in the UK is kept for a minimum of 1 year and a maximum of 2 years.
Retention of other data
- Postal data – retention period unknown.
Information written on the outside of a postal item (such as a letter or parcel, online tracking of postal items, records of postal items, such as records of registered, recorded or special delivery postal items, records of parcel consignment, delivery and collection
- Banking data – seven years.
It has been reported in the UK Economist magazine that UK banks are required to retain data on all financial transactions for seven years. This has not been verified. It is not clear whether data on credit card transactions is also retained for seven years.
- Vehicle movement data – two years.
Leaked documents from the Association of Chief Police Officers [ACPO] have revealed that the UK is planning to collect data from a nationwide network of automatic numberplate recognition cameras and store the data for two years in a controversial new centre being built at Hendon. This data could then be linked with other data held by the government and watchlists from the police and security services.
Access to retained data
The bodies that are able to access retained data in the United Kingdom are listed in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). These are the following:
- Police forces (as defined in section 81(1) of RIPA)
- National Criminal Intelligence Service
- National Crime Squad (now Serious Organised Crime Agency)
- HM Customs and Excise
- Inland Revenue (the latter two have been merged into HM Revenue and Customs)
- Security Service
- Secret Intelligence Service
- Government Communications Headquarters
However, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) also gives the Home Secretary powers to change the list of bodies with access to retained data through secondary legislation. The list of authorised bodies now includes:
- Food Standards Agency
- Local Authorities
- The National Health Service
Reasons for accessing retained data
The justifications for accessing retained data in the United Kingdom are set out in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). They are -
- in the interests of national security;
- for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime or of preventing disorder;
- in the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom;
- in the interests of public safety;
- for the purpose of protecting public health;
- for the purpose of assessing or collecting any tax, duty, levy or other imposition, contribution or charge payable to a government department;
- for the purpose, in an emergency, of preventing death or injury or any damage to a person's physical or mental health, or of mitigating any injury or damage to a person's physical or mental health;
- for any purpose (not falling into the above) which is specified for the purposes of this subsection by an order made by the Secretary of State.
Implementation of the directive was part of Act. No. 259/2010 Coll. on electronic communications as later amended. Under art. 97 (3), telecommunication data are to be stored between 6 and 12 months. The Czech Constitutional Court has deemed the law unconstitutional and found it to be infringing on the peoples right to privacy.
In July 2012, new legislation is on its way
In July 2005 new legal requirements on data retention came into force in Italy.
- Subscriber information
Internet cafes and public telephone shops with at least three terminals must seek a license permit within 30 days from the Ministry of Home Affairs. They must also store traffic data for a period which may be determined later by administrative decree. WIFI hotspots and locations that do not store traffic data have to secure ID information from users before allowing them to log on. For example, users may be required to enter a number from an ID card or driving license. It is not clear how this information is validated. Mobile telephony users must identify themselves before service activation, or before a SIM may be obtained. Resellers of mobile subscriptions or pre-paid cards must verify the identity of purchasers and retain a photocopy of identity cards.
- Telephony data
Data, including location data, on fixed line and mobile telephony must be retained for 24 months. There is no requirement to store the content of calls. Telephony operators must retain a record of all unsuccessful dial attempts.
- ISP data
Internet service providers must retain all data for at least 12 months. The law does not specify exactly what traffic data must be retained. There is no requirement to store the content of internet communications.
The legislation of July 2005 enables data retention by outlawing all the relevant data protection provisions until 31 December 2007. Under the data protection provisions, service providers are obliged to store traffic data and user data for no less than 365 days, even if they no longer need it to process the communication or to send bills, policy requires user id information, location, tracking data be stored and kept on file for easy access by law enforcement and/or other authorities who request this information (permission must be asked to view sensitive user id data on file). The traffic data which will now be retained can be used for anti-terrorism purposes and for general penal enforcement of criminal offences large and small.
Italy already required the retention of telephony traffic data for 48 months, but without location data. Italy has adopted the EU Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications 2002 but with an exemption to the requirement to erase traffic data.
Denmark has implemented the EU data retention directive and much more, by logging all internet flow or sessions between operators and operators and consumers.
- "2.2.1. Session logging (section 5(1) of the Executive Order) Providers of access to the internet must, in respect of the initiating and terminating package of an internet session, retain data that identifies the sending and receiving internet protocol address (in the following called IP address), the sending and receiving port number and the transmission protocol."
- "2.2.2. Sampling (section 5(4) of the Executive Order) The obligation to retain data about the initiating and terminating package of an internet session does not apply to providers in case such retention is not technically feasible in their systems. In that case, data must instead be retained for every 500th package that is part of an end user’s communication on the internet."
- "2.2.5. Hot spots (section 5(3) of the Executive Order) In addition to the internet data that must otherwise be retained, the provider must retain data that identifies the precise geographic or physical location of a hot spot and the identity of the communication equipment used. This means that a provider of internet access via a hot spot must retain data on a user’s access to the internet and, at the same time, retain data that identifies the geographic location of the hot spot in question."
Sweden implemented the Data Retention Directive in 2012. There was a proposal that data should be retained for one year, but the Government coalition has agreed that should be retained for six months. The European Commission has filed a complaint against Sweden for not implementing the directive within the required timeframe.
It has been revealed by a leak from the Swedish National Defence Radio Establishment that the agency in regard to international communication is collecting all traffic data in its central database, the Titan traffic database.
The German Bundestag had implemented the directive in "Gesetz zur Neuregelung der Telekommunikationsüberwachung und anderer verdeckter Ermittlungsmaßnahmen sowie zur Umsetzung der Richtlinie 2006/24/EG". The law became valid on 1 January 2008. Any communications data had to be retained for six months. On 2 March 2010, the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany ruled the law unconstitutional as a violation of the guarantee of the secrecy of correspondence. As such, the directive is not currently implemented in Germany.
The directive has been implemented in Romania as well. However, Constitutional Court of Romania struck down the transposing acts as violating constitutional rights . The court held that the transposing act violated the constitutional rights of privacy, of confidentiality in communications, and of free speech.
Slovakia has implemented the directive in Act No. 610/2003 Coll. on electronic communications as later amended. Telecommunication data are stored for six months in the case of data related to Internet, Internet email and Internet telephony (art. 59a (6) a)), and for 12 months in the case of other types of communication (art. 59a (6) b)).
On 29 June 2010, the Serbian parliament adopted the Law on Electronic Communications, according to which the operator must keep the data on electronic communications for 12 months. This provision was criticized as unconstitutional by opposition parties and by Ombudsman Saša Janković.
- In 1999 two models of mandatory data retention were suggested for the US: What IP address was assigned to a customer at a specific time. In the second model, "which is closer to what Europe adopted", telephone numbers dialed, contents of Web pages visited, and recipients of e-mail messages must be retained by the ISP for an unspecified amount of time.
- The Internet Stopping Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of Today's Youth (SAFETY) Act of 2009 also known as H.R. 1076 and S.436 would require providers of "electronic communication or remote computing services" to "retain for a period of at least two years all records or other information pertaining to the identity of a user of a temporarily assigned network address the service assigns to that user." This bill never became a law.
Commercial data retention
Amazon is known to retain extensive data on customer transactions. Google is also known to retain data on searches, and other transactions. If a company is based in the USA the FBI can obtain access to such information by means of a National Security Letter (NSL). The Electronic Frontier Foundation states that "NSLs are secret subpoenas issued directly by the FBI without any judicial oversight. These secret subpoenas allow the FBI to demand that online service providers or ecommerce companies produce records of their customers transactions. The FBI can issue NSLs for information about people who haven't committed any crimes.
NSLs are practically immune to judicial review. They are accompanied by gag orders that allow no exception for talking to lawyers and provide no effective opportunity for the recipients to challenge them in court. This secret subpoena authority, which was expanded by the controversial USA PATRIOT Act, could be applied to nearly any online service provider for practically any type of record, without a court ever knowing." The Washington Post has published a well researched article on the FBI's use of National Security Letters.
Arguments against data retention
It is often argued that data retention was necessary to combat terrorism. However, data retention cannot prevent any terrorist attacks. At best it may, as its proponents claim, assist the police to find the culprits and their accomplices after an attack has already taken place. The authorities in Spain and the United Kingdom have claimed that retained telephony data made a significant contribution to police enquires into the 11 March 2004 Madrid train bombings and the 7 July 2005 London bombings.
The opponents of data retention make the following arguments –
- The Madrid train bombings can also be seen as proof that the current data retention level is sufficient and hence the EU directive is not necessity.
- Schemes for data retention do not make provisions for adequate regulation of the data retention process and for independent judicial oversight.
- Data retention is an invasion of privacy and a disproportionate response to the threat of terrorism.
- It is easy for terrorists to avoid having their communications recorded. The Home Office Voluntary Code of Practice of Data Retention admits that there are some internet protocols which cannot be effectively monitored. It would be possible for terrorists to avoid monitoring by using anonymous P2P technologies, internet cafes, anonymous proxies or several other methods. The police forces of the EU are sceptical about the value of data retention. Heinz Kiefer, president of Eurocop [European Confederation of Police] issued a press statement saying "it remains easy for criminals to avoid detection through fairly simple means, for example mobile phone cards can be purchased from foreign providers and frequently switched. The result would be that a vast effort is made with little more effect on criminals and terrorists than to slightly irritate them. Activities like these are unlikely to boost citizens’ confidence in the EU’s ability to deliver solutions to their demand for protection against serious crime and terrorism."
- The hardware and software required to store all the retained data would be extremely costly. The costs of retaining data would not only fall on Internet Service Providers and telephone companies, but also on all companies and other organisations which would need to retain records of traffic passing through their switchboards and servers.
- Data retention gives excessive power to the state to monitor the lives of individual citizens.
- Data retention may be abused by the police to monitor the activities of any group which may come into conflict with the state; including ones which are engaged in legitimate protests. The UK police have used anti-terrorism powers against groups opposed to the war in Iraq and protestors at an arms fair. The definition of terrorism in the UK Terrorism Act 2000 includes not only action, but the threat of action, involving serious violence against a person, or serious damage to property, for the purposes of advancing a "political, religious or ideological cause". There is concern that the definition is vaguely worded and could be applied to supporters of animal liberation, anti-war demonstrators and many others.
- Even if data retention may be justified, the retention periods proposed in some cases are excessive. It has been argued that a period of five days for web activity logs and ninety days for all other data would be adequate for police purposes.
Protection against data retention
The current directive proposal (see above) would force ISPs to record the internet communications of its users. The basic assumption is that this information can be used to identify with whom someone, whether innocent citizen or terrorist, communicated throughout a specific timespan. Believing that such as mandate would be useful is ignoring that some very committed community of crypto professionals has been preparing for such legislation for decades. Below are some strategies available today to anyone to protect themselves, avoid such traces, and render such expensive and legally dubious logging operations useless.
Several organizations have set up VPNs so their employees can safely access the private data of the company. In this case the only data retained is the connection to the VPN server, that will contain all the data served to the EU citizen encrypted.
The connections, if the company is in the EU, will be recorded as a company access, mixed with all the other employees access. To single out any user, the company would have to be tapped and that the citizen would have to use it after its been tapped. In practice that would mean that data retention would be of the same use that the present tapping legislation, so it presents only a cost with no benefit.
If the company is outside the EU, not even tapping can be done. Google created a public use VPN with their Google WiFi project. While their client software isn't provided by Google anymore, it can still be downloaded in sites like Softpedia. In this situation, any EU citizen can simply download their software and use the Internet without worrying about data retention in the EU.
Anonymizing proxy services: Web
There are anonymizing proxies that provide slightly more private web access. Proxies must use HTTPS encryption in order to provide any level of protection at all. Unfortunately, proxies require the user to place a large amount of trust in the proxy operator (since they see everything the user does over HTTP), and may be subject to traffic analysis.
Some P2P services, being it file transfer or voice over IP, use other computers to allow communication between computers behind firewalls. This means that trying to follow a call between two citizens might, mistakenly, identify a third citizen unaware of the communication.
Privacy enhancing tools
For security conscious citizens with some basic technical know-how, tools like I2P – The Anonymous Network, Tor, mixmaster and the cryptography options integrated into any many modern mail clients can be employed.
I2P - The Anonymous Network is an international peer-to-peer anonymizing network, which aims at not only evade data retention, but also make spying by other parties impossible. The structure is similar to the one TOR (see next paragraph) uses, but there are substantial differences. It protects better against traffic analysis and offers strong anonymity and for net-internal traffic end-to-end encryption. Due to unidirectional tunnels it is less prone to timing attacks than tor. In I2P several services are available: anonymous browsing, anonymous e-mails, anonymous instant messenger, anonymous filesharing, anonymous hosting of websites.
Tor is a project of the US non-profit Tor Project to develop and improve an onion routing network to shield its users from traffic analysis. Mixmaster is a remailer service that allows anonymous email sending.
JAP is a project very similar to Tor. It is designed to route web requests through several proxies to hide the end users Internet address. Tor support has been included into JAP.
Initiative against extensive data retention
The Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung (German Working Group on Data Retention) is an association of civil rights campaigners, data protection activists and Internet users. The Arbeitskreis coordinates the campaign against the introduction of data retention in Germany.
An analysis of federal Crime Agency (BKA) statistics published on 27 January 2010 by civil liverties NGO AK Vorrat revealed that data retention did not make a prosecution of serious crime any more effective.
As the EU Commission is currently considering changes to the controversial EU data retention directive, a coalition of more than 100 civil liberties, data protection and human rights associations, jurists, trade unions and others are urging the Commission to propose the repeal of the EU requirements regarding data retention in favour of a system of expedited preservation and targeted collection of traffic data.
In November 2012, answers to a parliamentary inquiry in the German Bundestag revealed plans of some EU countries including France to extend data retention to chats and postings on social networks. Furthermore, the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Germany's domestic intelligence agency) has confirmed that it has been working with the ETSI LI Technical Committee since 2003.
- Computer data storage
- Customer proprietary network information
- Data privacy
- Data retention
- Data Retention Directive
- Electronic discovery
- Lawful interception
- Mass surveillance
- NSA call database
- Secrecy of correspondence
- Traffic analysis
- I2P - The Anonymous Network
- "Directive 2006/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 on the retention of data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks and amending Directive 2002/58/EC". Official Journal of the European Union. April 13, 2006.
- John Leyden (December 14, 2005). "MEPs vote for mandatory data retention". The Register. Retrieved 2011-12-21.
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- Timesonline.co.uk[dead link]
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- Seattle PI[dead link]
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- , full executive order (Danish).
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- Romanian Constitutional Court Decision no.1258 of Oct. 8, 2009, Official Gazette no. 798 of Nov. 23, 2009.In: http://ejlt.org//article/view/29/75
- "Høring om kostnadsfordelingsmodell for datalagringsdirektivet og ny bestemmelse som regulerer politiets adgang til uthenting av data i nødsituasjoner" [Consultation on Cost Allocation Model for Data Retention Directive and the New Provision Regulating Police Access to the Retrieval of Data in Emergency Situations] (in Norwegian). Government of Norway. 26 April 2013. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
- Tadić signs electronic communications law, B92
- Akrivopoulou, Christina; Psygkas, Athanasios (2010). Personal Data Privacy and Protection in a Surveillance Era: Technologies and Practices. Idea Group Inc. p. 257. ISBN 978-1-60960-083-9. "These civil liberties organizations also highlighted the absence of such a data retention obligation for ISPs in the US…"
- "ISP snooping gaining support". CNET. April 14, 2006. Retrieved 2009-03-17.
- "FBI, politicos renew push for ISP data retention laws". CNET. April 14, 2006. Retrieved 2009-03-17. "Based on the statements at Wednesday's hearing and previous calls for new laws in this area, the scope of a mandatory data retention law remains fuzzy. It could mean forcing companies to store data for two years about what Internet addresses are assigned to which customers (Comcast said in 2006 that it would be retaining those records for six months)."
- "FBI wants records kept of Web sites visited". CNET. February 5, 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-06. "Federal regulations in place since at least 1986 require phone companies that offer toll service to "retain for a period of 18 months" records including "the name, address, and telephone number of the caller, telephone number called, date, time and length of the call." — "Eighteen million hits an hour would have to have been logged" [...] The purpose of the FBI's request was to identify visitors to two URLs, "to try to find out...who's going to them.""
- "Proposed Child Pornography Laws Raise Data Retention Concerns". Channel Web. February 20, 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-17.
- "H.R. 1076: Internet Stopping Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of Today's Youth (SAFETY) Act of 2009". Govtrack.us. February 13, 2009.
- Grubb, Ben (July 23, 2010). "No Minister: 90% of web snoop document censored to stop 'premature unnecessary debate'". The Sydney Morning Herald.
- Grubb (June 20, 2013). "Government shelves controversial data retention scheme". The Sydney Morning Herald.
- Eurocop: "Europe wide retention of telecommunications data unlikely to help law enforcement agencies in the fight against terrorism." Luxembourg, 2 June 2005. at the Wayback Machine (archived 26 July 2011)
- FM4 Online (ORF): Vorratsspeicherung für Facebook-Daten (in German). 2012-10-30. Retrieved 2012-11-08
- Study on data retention effectiveness
- Letter of more than 100 organisations on data retention
- Statement by the German Minister of Justice
- Statement by the German Secretary of Justice
- Bowden, Caspar: "Closed Circuit Television For Inside Your Head: Blanket Traffic Data Retention and the Emergency Anti-Terrorism Legislation". Computer and Telecommunications Law Review, March 2002.
- Breyer, P.: "Telecommunications Data Retention and Human Rights: The Compatibility of Blanket Traffic Data Retention with the ECHR", European Law Journal, May 2005. (PDF-File, 82 KB)
- Centre for European Policy Studies (CEP): Policy Brief on Data Retention (2011). (PDF-File)
- Crump, C.: Data retention: privacy, anonymity, and accountability online (2003). 56 Stanford Law Review 191-229.
- Cybertelecom :: Records Keeping / Data Retention
- Digital Rights Ireland: Digital Rights Ireland's challenge against the EU Data Retention Directive and Irish retention legislation on the grounds of European and Irish constitutional law.
- Electronic Privacy Information Center: EPIC data retention page (to 2007)
- European Digital Rights: EDRI news tracking page on data retention (current)
- Feiler, L.: The Data Retention Directive (2008). Seminar paper. (PDF-File)
- Frost & Sullivan Whitepaper: "Meeting the challenges of Data Retention: Now and in the future"
- Ganj, C.: "The Lives of Other Judges: Effects of the Romanian Data Retention Judgment" (December 4, 2009). (PDF-File)
- Goemans, C. and Dumortier, J.: "Mandatory retention of traffic data in the EU: possible impact on privacy and on-line anonymity. Digital Anonymity and the Law, series IT & Law/2, T.M.C. Asser Press, 2003, p 161-183. (PDF-File)
- Milford, P.: "The Data Retention Directive: too fast, too furious a response? (2008). LLM Dissertation – Southampton Business School. (PDF-File)
- Mitrou, L.: "Communications Data Retention: A Pandora’s Box for Rights and Liberties?" From Digital Privacy: Theory, Technologies, and Practices edited by Alessandro Acquisti, Stefanos Gritzalis, Costos Lambrinoudakis and Sabrina di Vimercati. Auerbach Publications, 2008. (PDF-File)
- Morariu, M.: How Secure is to Remain Private? On the Controversies of the European Data Retention Directive (2009). Amsterdam Social Science, Vol. 1(2): p. 46-65. (PDF-File)
- Statewatch: The surveillance of telecommunications in the EU.
- UK Data Retention Requirements with full references to legislation, codes of practice, etc.
- UK Home Office: Consultation papers on data retention and on access to communications data.
- Walker, C., & Akdeniz, Y.: "Anti-Terrorism laws and data retention: war is over?". Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly, 54(2), Summer edition 2003, 159-182. (PDF-File, 97 KB)
- Working Group on Data Retention: List of documents relating to communications data retention in the EU (current)