Spying on telephone and Internet traffic should be law enforcement's last resort -- carefully limited to protect the privacy of innocent people, conducted only during critical investigations. Unfortunately, the European Union is contemplating passing laws that would treat all of its citizens like criminal suspects.
Next week, the Justice and Home Affairs Council of the EU Council of Ministers will consider forcing phone companies and Internet service providers (ISPs) to collect and keep records of their customers' private phone calls and Internet communications, as well as the location data for their mobile devices. And within the month, another wing of the EU, the European Commission, will unveil a draft law to make creating these records of people's private communications compulsory all across Europe.
What will the records contain? If these proposals become law, European telcos and ISPs would be compelled to log and retain for inspection everything from the telephone numbers of every phone call, to the personal computer address of everyone who sends and receives email, to the time stamp, date, and size of every message sent. They may even be forced to log every website Internet users visit. And it doesn't stop there -- they could also be required to log and keep records of everyone's actual physical location through their mobile devices.
What's worse, all of this information would remain on file for periods ranging from six months to three years, to be handed over to any "competent authority" -- not just in serious criminal or terrorist investigations, but for *any* inquiry, for the open-ended purpose of "the prevention, investigation, detection, and prosecution of criminal offenses."
These proposed laws don't just threaten the privacy and freedom of EU citizens, they threaten the privacy and freedom of people all around the world. Any communication routed through Europe could be caught in this dragnet. And if the EU adopts mandatory data retention, it will make it that much easier for other governments, including the United States government, to push for similar measures. Indeed, the US Department of Justice has already expressed interest in just such an arrangement.
Show European decision makers that they're making a global mistake. Join 30,000 other concerned activists from around the world in signing a petition by European Digital Rights (EDRI), an alliance of more than 20 European civil liberty groups that is leading the fight against these dangerous proposals.