The European Parliament has voted to make ISPs and telephone companies keep internet and phone data for between six months and two years, to aid law enforcement agencies in their fight against terrorism and serious crime.
Individual EU member states will be able to choose which retention timeframe to adopt. They will also decide whether to reimburse ISPs and phone companies for the extra costs involved in storing the data and providing access to law enforcement agencies.
Those countries that already have data retention rules, which cover longer periods, will be able to keep them. The content of voice calls will not have to be retained, nor will phone records of calls not connected.
It is expected that the new rules for phone data will take effect in around 18 months, but the rules on internet data will not be enforced for three years.
The UK government has led calls for data retention following July’s London bombings. Mobile phone records have been studied as part of the investigation into the perpetrators’ movements.
The UK government has not said whether it will reimburse companies for retaining the data. Companies have warned that the costs are substantial and that they could be passed onto consumers if they are not reimbursed.