November 26, 2005

Traffic Data Retention Coming

A proposal to introduce mandatory traffic data retention has been approved by a large majority in the European Parliament's LIBE committee (Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs). The "Open Rights Group" blog has a short overview, catching the fact that this might even be used for prosecuting online file sharing, as requested by the music industry. For more coverage see the opposition Wiki and an article at euractiv.com. Euractiv also has an interview in German with Alexander Alvaro, the thirty year young liberal from Germany who is the rapporteur on this file, with a short summary in English.

In my 2004 paper on DRM and data protection I predicted that the fight over anonymous use of the Internet will be decisive for the efficiency of any DRM efforts, since distribution is much more important than extraction.

Now the enemies of freedom seem to win this fight. Bloody hell. I am not pleased.

As I said last year:

"As far as I am concerned, they might as well propose implanting surveillance chips into all citizens' skulls, set up concentration camps, and routinely start torturing people who might know something the police possibly could be interested in."

This means a complete reversal of the June 7 report adopted by the same committee, which correctly understood that this kind of proposal is not compatible with the human right to confidential communication under relevant precedents of the European Court of Human Rights.

This proposal still needs to pass the plenary vote scheduled in the 12 to 15 December session. It also needs approval by Council, where it will be debated on December 1st and 2nd. It might still fail.

But the danger is very real now.

If the proposal passes in one way or another, the opponents of watching all citizens all the time will need to think about ways to resist this.

The first step should be to set up many, many anonymous Wifi Internet access points. Nothing in this obnoxious, harmful, and stupid proposal requires identification of Internet users. The working party on data protection pointed this out in their last working document of October 10 on the issue.

This is the simplest solution. Let them store all the data they want. That will be completely pointless if a large and growing part of communications comes without any ID attached to it.

And if this gives some added incentive to spread free and anonymous Wifi Internet access far and wide over Europe, the proposal might even do some good in a completely unintended way.

Certainly there won't be any terrorists dumb enough to be caught by this kind of thing, and if they are that stupid, they would be caught in fiftyeight different other ways as well.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at November 26, 2005 11:01 AM