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NRC Handelsblad, 17 February 2015: 'Justice now knows exactly where your phone was'

Justice wants to keep telecom data for long time. Telecom companies, journalists and lawyers are against it. The court will rule.
Tomorrow, summary proceedings by the Dutch Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers, journalists' union NVJ, Privacy First foundation and some telecoms providers against the so-called 'retention obligation' of telecoms data will be heard. They want the mandatory
mass storage of metadata - location, internet, email and call data - stops immediately. The plaintiffs think they have a good chance. The European Court of Justice ruled last year that the retention obligation severely affects privacy, while it is unclear to what extent it is needed to tackle terrorism and crime. Based on this, the Council of State established that in the Netherlands, from now on, it must be precisely defined whose data are kept. The Dutch Data Protection Authority is also critical. It announced yesterday that the plan to adjust the retention obligation still causes too great an infringement of privacy.

Currently, all phone data of all Dutch citizens are compulsorily stored for a year and internet data for six months. Minister Opstelten (Justice, VVD) already declared his willingness to amend the law, but to continue massive data storage. And that is therefore not allowed, believes the plaintiffs' lawyer Fulco Blokhuis. "The importance of fighting crime has already been weighed up by the European Court. Of course crime must be fought, but the court felt it would go much too far to store everyone's metadata for that purpose. Moreover, after almost six years of retention obligations, the effectiveness has not been demonstrated."

The court is likely to rule within weeks. (...)

(...) During the summary proceedings tomorrow, lawyer Blokhuis will argue that a lot of lawyers, journalists and others nowadays communicate digitally in a thoughtful manner, because they know that their data will be retained for a long time. (...) If citizens can no longer communicate unscrupulously, the source protection of journalists and the professional secrecy of lawyers are under pressure, this also leads to insecurity in society, opponents of long-term retention believe.

If the courts follow that view and find the current data retention obligation to be contrary to European fundamental rights, they may draw a line under it. The price for that, police and the judiciary say, is less effectiveness in detecting crime and terrorism."

Source: NRC Handelsblad 17 February 2015, p. 7.