Telecommunications data retention
In the field of telecommunication
Telecommunication is the transmission of information over significant distances to communicate. In earlier times, telecommunications involved the use of visual signals, such as beacons, smoke signals, semaphore telegraphs, signal flags, and optical heliographs, or audio messages via coded...

s, data retention (or data preservation) generally refers to the storage of call detail record
Call detail record
A call detail record , also known as call data record, is a data record produced by a telephone exchange or other telecommunications equipment documenting the details of a phone call that passed through the facility or device...

s (CDRs) of telephony
In telecommunications, telephony encompasses the general use of equipment to provide communication over distances, specifically by connecting telephones to each other....

 and internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

Traffic on roads may consist of pedestrians, ridden or herded animals, vehicles, streetcars and other conveyances, either singly or together, while using the public way for purposes of travel...

 and transaction
Database transaction
A transaction comprises a unit of work performed within a database management system against a database, and treated in a coherent and reliable way independent of other transactions...

 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, email
Electronic mail, commonly known as email or e-mail, is a method of exchanging digital messages from an author to one or more recipients. Modern email operates across the Internet or other computer networks. Some early email systems required that the author and the recipient both be online at the...

s sent and received and web sites visited. Location data is also collected.

The primary objective in government data retention is traffic analysis
Traffic analysis
Traffic analysis is the process of intercepting and examining messages in order to deduce information from patterns in communication. It can be performed even when the messages are encrypted and cannot be decrypted. In general, the greater the number of messages observed, or even intercepted and...

 and mass surveillance
Mass surveillance
Mass surveillance is the pervasive surveillance of an entire population, or a substantial fraction thereof.Modern governments today commonly perform mass surveillance of their citizens, explaining that they believe that it is necessary to protect them from dangerous groups such as terrorists,...

. 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.

European Union

On 15 March 2006 the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 adopted Directive 2006/24/EC, 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 22 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 critical remarks 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”.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 has a system of voluntary data retention which derives from Part 11 of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. Telephone operators and Internet Service Providers retain some data [see below] under a voluntary arrangement with the UK Home Office
Home Office
The Home Office is the United Kingdom government department responsible for immigration control, security, and order. As such it is responsible for the police, UK Border Agency, and the Security Service . It is also in charge of government policy on security-related issues such as drugs,...


The Part 11 of the Act contains a number of sections which deal with the retention of communications data by fixed line and mobile telephone service providers and internet service providers [service providers].
Communications data includes data which identifies the users of services, data which identifies which services were used and when they were used, and data which identifies who the user contacted. It does not include the content of communications. For example, in the case of a call from a mobile telephone the data to be retained would include data identifying the owner of the phone, who was called, the duration of the call and the approximate locations of both parties. It would not include what was said during the call.

The Act requires the Secretary of State for the Home Office to issue a voluntary code of practice on data retention. This has been done. A code of practice has been issued and contains the requirements set out below. If the Secretary of State believes that the voluntary code of practice is not effective then he may make the code compulsory by issuing a statutory instrument which must be approved by both Houses of Parliament. This has not yet been done.

Other legislation affecting data retention includes the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003
Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003
The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 is a law in the United Kingdom which made it unlawful to, amongst other things, transmit an automated recorded message for direct marketing purposes via a telephone, without prior consent of the subscriber.This is somewhat similar to the...

. These require service providers to destroy or anonymise data when it is not longer required for commercial purposes [e.g. billing]. The provisions of Part 11 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001
Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001
The Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 was formally introduced into the Parliament of the United Kingdom on 19 November 2001, two months after the terrorist attacks on New York on 11 September. It received royal assent and came into force on 14 December 2001...

 override these requirements.

Any compulsory scheme of data retention would also be affected by Article 8 (the respect for the right of privacy) of the European Convention on Human Rights
European Convention on Human Rights
The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is an international treaty to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe. Drafted in 1950 by the then newly formed Council of Europe, the convention entered into force on 3 September 1953...

. This would require the destruction or anonymisation of communications data, but article 8(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights permits an interference with individual’s right to privacy if it is necessary in the interests of national security and the prevention and detection of certain types of crime. If the UK government was not to be challenged under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act it would need to demonstrate that any statutory requirement for data retention was proportionate.

Home Office Voluntary Code of Practice on Data Retention

Subscriber Information - retention period 12 months
Subscriber details relating to the person
e.g. Name, date of birth, installation and billing address, payment methods, account/credit card details
Contact information (information held about the subscriber but not verified by the CSP)
e.g. Telephone number, email address
Identity of services subscribed to (information determined by the communication service provider)
Customer reference/account number, list of services subscribed to
Telephony: telephone number(s), IMEI, IMSI(s)
Email: email address(es), IP at registration
Instant messaging: Internet Message Handle, IP at registration
ISP - dial-in: Log-in, CLI at registration (if kept)
ISP - always-on: Unique identifiers, MAC address
MAC address
A Media Access Control address is a unique identifier assigned to network interfaces for communications on the physical network segment. MAC addresses are used for numerous network technologies and most IEEE 802 network technologies, including Ethernet...

 (if kept), ADSL end points, IP tunnel address

Telephony Data - retention period 12 months
All numbers (or other identifiers e.g. name@bt) associated with call (e.g. physical/presentational/network
Assigned CLI, DNI
DNI may stand for:* Director of National Intelligence, a U.S. cabinet-level official* Director of Naval Intelligence * Direct neural interface, a brain-computer interface* Do Not Intubate, an alternate term for "do not resuscitate"...

, IMSI, IMEI, exchange/divert numbers)
Date and time of start of call
Duration of call/date and time of end of call
Type of call (if available)
Location data at start and/or end of call, in form of lat/long reference.
Cell site data from time cell ceases to be used.
For GPRS & 3G, date and time of connection, IMSI, IP address assigned.
Mobile data exchanged with foreign operators; IMSI & MSISDN, sets of GSM triples, sets of 3G
quintuples, global titles of equipment communicating with or about the subscriber.

In addition it has been reported that the UK police and security services have the following additional capabilities on mobile telephones, provided by telephone operators, but not covered by the voluntary code.
  1. The capability to record to the content of selected conversations.
  2. The capability to determine the location of a mobile telephone to within a few yards by using triangulation and multiple base stations.
  3. The capability to remotely activate the microphones of some mobile telephones. The UK Financial Times of the 2nd August 2005 [page 4 of the UK edition] reported that the UK police can ask mobile phone operators to download special spying software to a mobile telephone without the user’s knowledge or permission. When this has been done the authorities can turn on the microphone of a mobile telephone and listen to any conversations in its vicinity. This capability only exists for mobile telephones which can accept downloaded software. The telephone must be turned on for the microphone to be activated, but the user does not have to be making a call.

Short message service
Short Message Service is a text messaging service component of phone, web, or mobile communication systems, using standardized communications protocols that allow the exchange of short text messages between fixed line or mobile phone devices...

Enhanced Messaging Service
Enhanced Messaging Service , is a cross-industry collaboration between Samsung, Ericsson, Motorola, Siemens and Alcatel, among others. It is an application-level extension to Short Message Service for cellular phones available on GSM, TDMA and CDMA networks.EMS is an intermediate technology,...

 and MMS
Multimedia Messaging Service
Multimedia Messaging Service, or MMS, is a standard way to send messages that include multimedia content to and from mobile phones. It extends the core SMS capability that allowed exchange of text messages only up to 160 characters in length.The most popular use is to send photographs from...

 Data - retention period 6 months.

Calling number, IMEI - Called number, IMEI - Date and time of sending - Delivery receipt - if available - Location data when messages sent and received, in form of lat/long reference.

Email Data – retention period 6 months.
Log-on (authentication user name, date and time of log-in/log-off, IP address logged-in from) - sent email (authentication user name, from/to/cc email addresses, date and time sent) - received email (authentication user name, from/to email addresses, date and time received).

ISP Data – retention period 6 months. Log-on (authentication user name, date and time of log-in/log-off, IP address assigned, Dial-up: CLI and number dialed, Always-on: ADSL end point/MAC address (If available).

Web Activity Logs – retention period 4 days.
Proxy server logs (date/time, IP address used, URL’s visited, services. The data types here will be restricted solely to Communications Data and exclude content of communication. Web browsing information is retained to the extent that only the host machine or domain name (web site name) is disclosed. For example, within a communication, data identifying would be traffic data, whereas data identifying would be content and not subject to retention.

Other Services - retention period relative to service provided. Instant Message Type Services (log-on/off time) if available.

Collateral Data - retention period relative to data to which it is related. Data needed to interpret other communications data, for example the mapping between cell mast identifiers and their location, and the translation of dialing (as supported by IN networks).

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
Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, regulating the powers of public bodies to carry out surveillance and investigation, and covering the interception of communications...

 (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
Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000
The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, regulating the powers of public bodies to carry out surveillance and investigation, and covering the interception of communications...

 (RIPA) also gives the Home Secretary
Home Secretary
The Secretary of State for the Home Department, commonly known as the Home Secretary, is the minister in charge of the Home Office of the United Kingdom, and one of the country's four Great Offices of State...

 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.

Czech republic

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 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 29 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 six 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.
  1. "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."

  1. "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."

  1. "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 has not yet implemented Directive 2006/24/EC. There is 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
European Commission
The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union. The body is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the Union's treaties and the general day-to-day running of the Union....

 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
Swedish National Defence Radio Establishment
The National Defence Radio Establishment is a civilian establishment subordinate to the Ministry of Defence. The two main tasks of FRA are signals intelligence and support to government authorities and state owned companies regarding IT security.Interception of signals is done from fixed sites on...

 that the agency in regard to international communication is collecting all traffic data in its central database, the Titan traffic database
Titan traffic database
The Titan traffic database is a database established by the Swedish National Defence Radio Establishment where call detail records of telephony and internet traffic and transaction data concerning international telecommonications are stored...



The German Bundestag
The Bundestag is a federal legislative body in Germany. In practice Germany is governed by a bicameral legislature, of which the Bundestag serves as the lower house and the Bundesrat the upper house. The Bundestag is established by the German Basic Law of 1949, as the successor to the earlier...

 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
Federal Constitutional Court of Germany
The Federal Constitutional Court is a special court established by the Grundgesetz, the German basic law...

 ruled the law unconstitutional
Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany
The Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany is the constitution of Germany. It was formally approved on 8 May 1949, and, with the signature of the Allies of World War II on 12 May, came into effect on 23 May, as the constitution of those states of West Germany that were initially included...

 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.

United States

  • In 1999 two models of mandatory data retention were suggested for the US: What IP address
    IP address
    An Internet Protocol address is a numerical label assigned to each device participating in a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication. An IP address serves two principal functions: host or network interface identification and location addressing...

     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
    The United States 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...

    ) 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.


The Australian Government is currently seeking to introduce mandatory data retention

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
National Security Letter
A National Security Letter is a form of administrative subpoena used by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation and reportedly by other U.S. Government Agencies including the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense. They require no probable cause or judicial oversight...

 (NSL). The Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Frontier Foundation
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is an international non-profit digital rights advocacy and legal organization based in the United States...

 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
The USA PATRIOT Act is an Act of the U.S. Congress that was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001...

, 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 on 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
11 March 2004 Madrid train bombings
The Madrid train bombings consisted of a series of coordinated bombings against the Cercanías system of Madrid, Spain on the morning of 11 March 2004 , killing 191 people and wounding 1,800...

 and the 7 July 2005 London bombings
7 July 2005 London bombings
The 7 July 2005 London bombings were a series of co-ordinated suicide attacks in the United Kingdom, targeting civilians using London's public transport system during the morning rush hour....


The opponents of data retention make the following arguments –
  1. 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.
  2. Schemes for data retention do not make provisions for adequate regulation of the data retention process and for independent judicial oversight.
  3. Data retention is an invasion of privacy and a disproportionate response to the threat of terrorism.
  4. 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 peer to peer 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."
  5. The hardware and software
    Data retention software
    Software with data retention capabilities:* IBM System Storage Archive Manager, a TSM module for Data Retention* Hitachi Data Retention Utility formerly LDEV Guard...

     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.
  6. Data retention gives excessive power to the state to monitor the lives of individual citizens.
  7. 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.
  8. 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
Google WiFi
Google WiFi is a municipal wireless network deployed in Mountain View, California. It is entirely funded by Google and installed primarily on Mountain View lightposts...

 project. While their client software isn't provided by Google anymore, it can still be downloaded in sites like Softpedia
Softpedia is an Internet web site that indexes information and provides software downloads. The site also covers major technology, science, health, and entertainment news from both external and in-house sources and provides software and game reviews. , it is one of the top 500 websites according to...

. 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
Proxy server
In computer networks, a proxy server is a server that acts as an intermediary for requests from clients seeking resources from other servers. A client connects to the proxy server, requesting some service, such as a file, connection, web page, or other resource available from a different server...

 that provide slightly more private web access. Proxies must use HTTPS
Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure is a combination of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol with SSL/TLS protocol to provide encrypted communication and secure identification of a network web server...

 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
Traffic analysis
Traffic analysis is the process of intercepting and examining messages in order to deduce information from patterns in communication. It can be performed even when the messages are encrypted and cannot be decrypted. In general, the greater the number of messages observed, or even intercepted and...


P2P communications

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
I2P is a mixed-license, free and open source project building an anonymous network .The network is a simple layer that applications can use to anonymously and securely send...

, Tor
Tor (anonymity network)
Tor is a system intended to enable online anonymity. Tor client software routes Internet traffic through a worldwide volunteer network of servers in order to conceal a user's location or usage from someone conducting network surveillance or traffic analysis...

, mixmaster
Mixmaster may refer to:*Mixmaster, a brand of Sunbeam Products electric kitchen mixer*The Mixmaster anonymous remailer, a Type II anonymous remailer which sends messages in fixed-size packets and reorders them, preventing anyone watching the messages go in and out of remailers from tracing...

 and the cryptography options integrated into any many modern mail clients can be employed. Some maintain that anonymity is impossible online, and will be so in the future, as governments can ultimately shut down sites with relative ease in extreme circumstances. This applies to sites operating, for example, outside U.S. jurisdiction. That P2P sites, or even Wikileaks, remain operational, speaks for the leniency with which the U.S. has pursued closing these sites.

I2P - The Anonymous Network
I2P is a mixed-license, free and open source project building an anonymous network .The network is a simple layer that applications can use to anonymously and securely send...

 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 (anonymity network)
Tor is a system intended to enable online anonymity. Tor client software routes Internet traffic through a worldwide volunteer network of servers in order to conceal a user's location or usage from someone conducting network surveillance or traffic analysis...

 is a project of the US non-profit Tor Project to develop and improve an onion routing
Onion routing
Onion routing is a technique for anonymous communication over a computer network. Messages are repeatedly encrypted and then sent through several network nodes called onion routers. Like someone unpeeling an onion, each onion router removes a layer of encryption to uncover routing instructions, and...

 network to shield its users from traffic analysis. Mixmaster is a remailer service that allows anonymous email sending.

Java Anon Proxy
Java Anon Proxy, also known as JAP or JonDonym, is a proxy system designed to allow browsing the Web with revocable pseudonymity. It was originally developed as part of a project of the Technische Universität Dresden, the Universität Regensburg and Privacy Commissioner of Schleswig-Holstein...

 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.

Making use of Dynamic IP Addresses

Almost since the beginning of commercial Internet dynamic IP addresses were given out to consumers out of a pool of a set of addresses. Every connection is logged to a central database. When broadband
The term broadband refers to a telecommunications signal or device of greater bandwidth, in some sense, than another standard or usual signal or device . Different criteria for "broad" have been applied in different contexts and at different times...

 DSL made PPPoE popular one would still be given dynamic IP addresses but disconnecting the session and calling back was now a matter of seconds instead of waiting a minute for an analog modem
56K modem
56k modems are voiceband modems nominally capable of download speeds up to 56 kbit/s . In the late 1990s, they were the most popular access method for personal Internet usage, but their use had declined as broadband technologies such as DSL gained wider availability.-Speed:The 56 kbit/s...

 to retrain. If a large number of computers disconnected and reconnected every minute this would cause a lot of logs to be retained until it becomes uneconomic to retain this data of logins. Web usually still works with this and so does email. In calculation: if 1 million users at an ISP connected and disconnected every minute and did this 24/7 an ISP would need 11 terabyte
The terabyte is a multiple of the unit byte for digital information. The prefix tera means 1012 in the International System of Units , and therefore 1 terabyte is , or 1 trillion bytes, or 1000 gigabytes. 1 terabyte in binary prefixes is 0.9095 tebibytes, or 931.32 gibibytes...

s of storage, for 365 days of retention, if they sign a 4 byte field for logon/logoff time, a 4 byte field for customer number and a 4 byte field for IP address used.

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 piblished 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‘ .


[1] Study on data retention effectiveness .
[2] Letter of more than 100 organisations on data retention.
[3] Statement by the German Minister of Justice.
[4] Statement by the German Secretary of Justice.

See also

  • E-discovery
  • Customer proprietary network information
    Customer Proprietary Network Information
    Customer proprietary network information is the data collected by telecommunications companies about a consumer's telephone calls. It includes the time, date, duration and destination number of each call, the type of network a consumer subscribes to, and any other information that appears on the...

  • Data privacy
    Data privacy
    Information privacy, or data privacy is the relationship between collection and dissemination of data, technology, the public expectation of privacy, and the legal and political issues surrounding them....

  • Data Retention Directive
    Data Retention Directive
    The Data Retention Directive, more formally "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...

  • Lawful interception
    Lawful interception
    Lawful interception is obtaining communications network data pursuant to lawful authority for the purpose of analysis or evidence. Such data generally consist of signalling or network management information or, in fewer instances, the content of the communications...

  • Mass surveillance
    Mass surveillance
    Mass surveillance is the pervasive surveillance of an entire population, or a substantial fraction thereof.Modern governments today commonly perform mass surveillance of their citizens, explaining that they believe that it is necessary to protect them from dangerous groups such as terrorists,...

  • NSA call database
    NSA call database
    The United States' National Security Agency maintains a database containing hundreds of billions of records of telephone calls made by U.S...

  • Privacy
    Privacy is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively...

  • Secrecy of correspondence
    Secrecy of correspondence
    The secrecy of correspondence ) or literally translated as secrecy of letters, is a fundamental legal principle enshrined in the constitutions of several European countries. It guarantees that the content of sealed letters is never revealed and letters in transit are not opened by government...

  • Traffic analysis
    Traffic analysis
    Traffic analysis is the process of intercepting and examining messages in order to deduce information from patterns in communication. It can be performed even when the messages are encrypted and cannot be decrypted. In general, the greater the number of messages observed, or even intercepted and...

  • I2P - The Anonymous Network
    I2P is a mixed-license, free and open source project building an anonymous network .The network is a simple layer that applications can use to anonymously and securely send...

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.