E.U. plans expansion of data retention laws

The European Union (E.U.) is planning to bring in new legislation that will force telcos to retain traffic data for 12 months, ostensibly in a bid to fight terrorism.

If approved, communication service providers, such as Thus PLC and America Online Inc. (AOL) would have to spend millions of pounds a year to store tens of terabytes of information, increasing communications costs that will inevitably make their way down to users.

The measure aims to harmonize E.U. Members’ existing patchwork retention policies, but it has generated great conflict with privacy-protecting organizations.

Privacy International’s report on the proposals show that they require CSPs to store traffic data for 12 months. This goes far beyond simple voice telephone calling records: start time, stop time, caller, destination number, and duration of call. It is the registering of all things that are read, received, searched for, in which places, at which dates, for how long and with varying people. The E.U. proposal recognizes technology has moved on from the original plain old telephone system (POTS): “As much as possible it should take into account technology developments in e.g. VOIP, broadband,” it reads.

The amount of data involved is staggering. An AOL representative is quoted as saying that it requires, “US$40 million just to set up the system and then around US$14 million to run it.” AOL has 392 million sessions a day on average and sends 597 million emails a day — “That is about 100 CDs a day.”

This amounts to around 24TB of data a year. Thus, in its response to the E.U., said, “we have this figure of 36,000 CDs. That’s one year’s data.” That’s also about 23TB to 24TB. Across all CSPs in the EU the amount of data to be collected per year would run into hundreds of terabytes, all of which would have to be organized and indexed before it could be searched with any effectiveness. The annual costs of this would approach and probably pass

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