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LINX Warning To ISP's - Data Retention
By: MarkJ - 06 January, 2005 (2:33 PM)

The London Internet Exchange (LINX) has re-warned UK ISP's about the EU's plans to force providers into collecting private/personal user traffic data, which will have added costs for surfers and impact personal privacy:

"It would be nothing less than a hidden tax on Internet users who will be obliged to pay for the costs of government snooping," said Malcolm Hutty, regulation officer with LINX.

The European Council of Ministers is currently considering legislation which would force ISPs to collect and retain a wide variety of data about the traffic which they handle. It is intended that this data would be made available to law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Malcolm Hutty said: "At present, ISPs in the UK are required only to store information that they already collect for their own administration and billing purposes - not to collect data specifically for the government.

"The proposals from the European Council of Ministers, as we understand them, mean that the EU will tell ISPs what data to collect and store as well as defining how long it must be kept.
"

The council's own statement says that the draft Framework Decision on data retention "implies in principle that providers of publicly available electronic communications services or networks must retain specified data allowing for establishing the source, routing, destination, time, date and duration of communications and the location of the telecommunications devices used."

Mr Hutty said: "The EU is investigating ways of enforcing this level of data retention even where ISPs have no use for the information. For example, an ISP providing a 'permanently on' broadband connection generally has no interest in knowing specifically when the line was in use and for what purpose. The EU is seemingly going to make ISPs collect and store that data.

"The cost implications are huge. As we do not know what data we might be collecting, it is impossible to estimate what the costs will actually be. The sky is the limit.

"At the end of the day, the only source of money to finance this will be Internet users. ISPs will have to put up charges in order to finance data collection and retention for the government.
"

The European Council of Ministers does say that, in considering new rules, "particular consideration should be given to the proportionality of the measure in relation to costs, privacy (data protection) and efficiency." However, LINX is concerned that since the cost will fall on ISPs - and ultimately on Internet users - the council will not give much weight to this issue.

Mr Hutty said: "The EU is still consulting on these proposals and we will be strongly putting forward the industry's viewpoint that they could represent a huge financial burden to be carried by Internet users."


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