EU Court of Justice opposes widespread retention of internet data

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The high court based in Luxembourg had been questioned by the Belgian Constitutional Court following appeals from lawyers and tax specialists

Lhe Court of Justice of the European Union has once again opposed, in a judgment delivered on Tuesday concerning in particular Belgian legislation, national rules requiring a provider of electronic communications services, for the purpose of combating infringements in general or to safeguard national security, the generalized and undifferentiated transmission or storage of data relating to traffic and location.

Exceptions

On the other hand, in situations in which a Member State faces a serious threat to national security which turns out to be “real and current or foreseeable”, it may derogate from the obligation to ensure the confidentiality of personal data. electronic communications by imposing generalized and undifferentiated retention, says the Court.

In this case, the retention period must be temporarily limited to what is strictly necessary, but it can be renewed if the threat persists, the Court said in a press release.

As regards the fight against serious crime and the prevention of serious threats to public security, a Member State may also provide for the targeted retention of data as well as their rapid retention. But such an interference with fundamental rights must be accompanied by effective guarantees and monitored by a judge or an independent administrative authority, adds the Court.

Likewise, a Member State may proceed to a generalized and undifferentiated storage of the IP addresses attributed to the source of a communication as long as the storage period is limited to what is strictly necessary. It can also proceed to a generalized and undifferentiated conservation of the data relating to the civil identity of the users of the electronic means of communication, without this being in the latter case limited to a particular period, according to this judgment.

Defense of privacy

The Luxembourg-based high court had been questioned by the Belgian Constitutional Court following appeals from lawyers and tax specialists, worried in particular about their professional secrecy, but also by the League of Human Rights, while the Belgian government was supported by Child Focus. These questions were joined with others in France and the United Kingdom, in particular at the initiative of the association La Quadrature du Net, which defends respect for privacy on the Internet.

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