Case against EU surveillance laws gains support

10 Dec 2007

In a move that will fortify Digital Rights Ireland’s case challenging European and Irish mass surveillance laws, the Irish Human Rights Commission is today applying for status of ‘amicus curiae’, or ‘friend of the court’.

Digital Rights Ireland (DRI) is a not-for-profit group that aims to defend civil, human and legal rights with an emphasis on how they are affected from a digital perspective, ie data stored, represented or transferred in digital format.

In September 2006 DRI initiated legal action against the Irish Government challenging both Irish and EU law with regards to data retention.

The laws in question require all telecommunications companies and internet service providers (ISPs) to track and record the movement of their subscribers. In the case of telcos they are required to retain that data for three years and ISPs are required to keep all email sent by their users for up to 18 months.

DRI says this surveillance can be done without “any warrant or judicial approval”, and applies to all Irish citizens including children.

DRI chairman TJ McIntyre said: “This case raises significant issues relating to the right to privacy of all Irish citizens and we are very happy that the Irish Human Rights Commission considers the case to be sufficiently important to seek to be heard.”

The action challenges the laws on data retention as contained in both the Irish Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act, 2005 and the European Data Retention Directive that came into being in 2006.

By Marie Boran