LUXEMBOURG, Oct. 12 -- The European Union has agreed to legally require telecommunications companies to keep records of phone and e-mail traffic for up to a year as part of the bloc's antiterrorist campaign, the Associated Press (AP) reported this morning.
The decision by 25 EU justice ministers comes after years of European debate over the privacy and cost concerns of data retention. Officials said the ministers agreed phone companies must keep records for 12 months and Internet providers for six months, according to the AP.
Britain, which holds the rotating EU presidency, has pushed for a data retention order as part of antiterror efforts in the wake of the deadly bombings in London in July. Data retention laws vary from country to country within the bloc. Fifteen EU countries have no such laws. But Italy and Ireland require telecommunications data be kept for three and four years, respectively; those tougher standards will remain under Wednesday's decision, the AP said.
The European Telecommunication Network Operators Association opposed plans to gather more telephone and Internet data to use in combatting terrorism, saying they are too costly.
"The sums of money we are talking about are in the hundreds of millions of euros on a pan-European basis," Michael Bartholomew, of the European Telecommunication Network Operators Association, told reporters last summer. German firms said the plan as a whole will cost more than 100 million euros (124 million dollars) to implement there alone, although Britain estimated it will cost large companies about 1.5 million euros, according to the EUBusiness Web site.
For more information, visit: www.eurunion.org