Paranoid EU

Published: Wednesday 15 February 2006

-- EU directive The Eu

Security, it seems, has become a perpetual bugbear for governments in the West. In a recent directive, the European Union (eu) has directed its member countries to ask their telephone companies and internet service providers (isp s) to save call records and internet logs up to two years. For telephone companies that means details of numbers dialled, call duration and location (mobile phones). For isps, it includes websites visited, the header information attached to every email, recipient, date and time.

A spokesperson of uk's home office summed up the objective of the eu directive pretty lucidly: "It will be very effective in combating terrorism and crime." He then hastened to add that the measure "wouldn't really encroach in an unnecessary way on people's privacy, since it wouldn't cover the content of calls or messages."

However, privacy advocates say that traffic data can be far more revealing. Asked one of them, "What tells you more about a relationship: an email message saying dinner at seven, or records showing that two correspondents have exchange message 12 times in two months?" Gus Hosein, an expert on privacy, technology and anti-terrorism law at the London School of Economics was even more forthright, "Yes, preserving records might be useful. But is that the kind of society, we would want to live in?

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