Groups to urge abolition of EU data retention directive

Civil liberties groups will band together to demand changes to the EU's data laws

By Jennifer Baker, IDG News Service |  Government

Civil liberties groups will gather in Brussels Saturday to call for the abolition of the European Union's data retention directive.

The directive requires telecom companies to gather information on customers to identify the source, recipient, date, time and duration of all calls or emails, and in the case of mobile telephony, the location of the equipment. This information must be available to be handed over to national police on a case-by-case basis.

The three-day event, called "Freedom not Fear," will also reject the European Commission's plans to store passenger name records (PNR). PNR data is already collected by airlines, but the Commission wants this information, which includes passengers' home addresses, mobile phone numbers, credit card information and email addresses, to be checked and stored by national police.

"A steadily increasing share of national legislation originates in Brussels with European directives that often restrict our fundamental freedoms and human rights," said Michael Ebeling, one of the organizers of the event.

The civil liberties groups that will participate in the event include AK Vorrat (the German Working Group on Data Retention); NURPA (a Belgian advocacy group that protects digital rights and the founding principles of the Internet); The International League for Human Rights, NO CCTV (campaigners against camera surveillance in the U.K. and beyond); the German Working Group against Internet Blocking and Censorship, FoeBuD (a digital civil liberties group); MOGiS e.V. (child sexual abuse survivors against Internet blocking); Peace Action and Bits of Freedom a member of the European Digital Rights group EDRi.

These organizations also demand that European politicians ensure a free, neutral and uncensored Internet is available to all citizens. They point to the importance of the Internet during the Arab Spring revolt and say this shows the importance of an open Internet for the development of a free society.

"For a few years now, attempts have been made again and again by European institutions to introduce Internet censorship or to disconnect users from the Internet for copyright infringement. It is therefore essential to guarantee open access to the Internet and net neutrality in Europe," said co-organizer Kirsten Fiedler.

On Monday the groups will meet representatives of the European Parliament and the Commission.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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