Data retention boosts crime, says civil liberties group

Data retention has advantaged corruption, endangered scientific research, caused unemployment, made political critics go underground, promoted the abuse of personal data, and frustrated the prosecution of crime, according to a German civil liberties group.

Data retention has advantaged corruption, endangered scientific research, caused unemployment, made political critics go underground, promoted the abuse of personal data, and frustrated the prosecution of crime, according to a German civil liberties group.

In a report, the Working Group on Data Retention gave examples of how legislation to monitor and collect the sender and receiver details of all phones calls, e-mails and other electronic communications had failed to help police stop crime.

Criminals had turned to more discreet ways of communicating, and used internet cafes to disguise the origin and destination of messages.

In an 2009 study, 12.8% of those surveyed were already using an anonymisation service; 6.4% had swopped to a service provider that didn't store data, and 5.1% used internet cafés, it said.

The report said journalists had found their sources drying up for fear that they could be traced.

It reported that in 2006, a co-worker had sold the personal details of 17 million T-mobile data customers. Details included the private addresses and secret numbers of many prominent citizens, including politicians, ministers, an ex-federal president, industrial leaders, billionaires and religious leaders. In cleaning up the mess, T-Mobile had again revealed confidential personal data, it said.

The report said the police actually solved more crimes before the data retention law came into effect. In 2008 police had cleared almost 80% of 167,451 online criminal offences. In 2009, the clearance rate was 75.7% of 206,909 cases.

"Even if one investigation was facilitated by collecting all call details, the policy has frustrated many other investigations and put human lives at risk," the group said.

"Blanket and indiscriminate recording of details on every phone call, e-mail and internet connection was useless for the prosecution of crime and totally disproportionate," it said.

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