European interior ministers are on collision course with the European Parliament over the retention of communications data for the fight against terrorism and other crime.
Interior ministers in Brussels last week agreed that phone companies and ISPs should be forced to retain communications data for up to two years to enable police to track suspected criminals.
While the minimum period set by ministers was six months for retention, they also said it should be optional for European Union governments as to whether communications companies should be reimbursed for storing and sharing the details with the police.
The European Parliament’s civil liberties committee has already voted for a maximum one year retention period and for companies to be reimbursed their costs.
The civil liberties committee is concerned that blanket access to the data will encourage law enforcement agencies to use the data for relatively minor offences, including the illegal sharing of internet music.
Reimbursement will help reduce the amount of data stored and shared, believes the committee.
The ministers also agreed that those countries that already demand data to be stored for longer periods than two years should continue to be able to do so.
One of the main aims of the proposed legislation is to make sure that national law enforcement agencies can easily access data in different countries, where currently there are not any fixed data retention periods.
The European parliament is scheduled to vote on the issue in mid-December. The UK has led calls for greater data retention following the London bombings.