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Jean Lambert London's Green MEP

EU Data Retention law breaches privacy, top lawyer rules

Jean Lambert answering questions

EU rules designed to keep us safe from cyber-crime while protecting our human rights online should be scrapped after a top lawyer described them as a serious breach of our privacy, Green MEP Jean Lambert has said.

The London Euro-MP made her comments after European Court of Justice Advocate General Pedro Cruz Villalon said of the 2006 Data Retention Directive: “The directive constitutes a serious interference with the fundamental right of citizens to privacy.”

The controversial directive, which requires Internet Service Providers and Telephone Companies to keep records on their customers’ e-mails and calls for two years so police or security agencies can access the data during investigations, should be replaced with a more balanced set of rules, based on protecting human rights, she said.

“The European Parliament is in the process of debating a new set of rules designed to protect the data of all EU citizens communicating on the internet,” she said.

“It must balance the right of individuals to know what data is being held about them – and for security agencies only to keep records as part of a specific investigation – with the need to keep us all safe from terrorism and cyber-crime.

“At the moment, as recent revelations about the extent of security agencies’ surveillance of ordinary citizens has shown, the balance is all wrong: and this legal opinion confirms that.

“Greens believe that EU data protection legislation should be based on the principles of government openness and transparency while protecting citizens’ right to privacy. The existing directive on Data Retention, which Greens opposed when it was adopted, takes exactly the opposite approach.”

Ms Lambert made her comments ahead of a hearing into US spying activities in the EU at the European Parliament next week in which US whistleblower Edward Snowden will give evidence by video-link.