Insufficient challenge to state-sponsored spying

10 Jul 2006

A challenge filed by the Irish Government to the EU’s Data Retention last week does not take account of privacy concerns of Irish citizens, a lobby group has claimed.

Last week the Irish Government filed a challenge to the Data Retention Directive before the European Court of Justice.

Privacy advocacy group Digital Rights Ireland (DRI) said the challenge will delay implementation of the contentious directive — which requires telcos and internet service providers to retain data for a number of years at the discretion of each respective EU state — and stands a good chance of striking it down in its entirety.

However, DRI says the challenge — arguing that the wrong legal mechanism was chosen — is purely procedural and that the Irish Government agrees with the principle of spying on every citizen.

DRI chairman TJ McIntyre argued that the Government’s challenge did not take into account the privacy concerns of Irish citizens.

According to the Government’s challenge, the measure should have been passed by unanimous agreement of all member states in the EU and not by a majority voting procedure last December.

“We welcome the challenge as far as it goes — but it doesn’t go far enough,” McIntyre explained. “The directive is clearly an attempt to deal with matters of criminal law that are reserved to the member states, and the fundamental rights of Irish citizens should not be set aside by the majority vote of other EU states.

“But we’re disappointed that the Government shows no interest in asserting the right to privacy of Irish citizens. The result is that the European Court of Justice, when it eventually deals with the case, will only be hearing about procedure — not privacy.

“We believe that a law which provides for state-sponsored spying on every citizen, at all times, must be judged on privacy grounds — and that when it is, it will be found to violate fundamental rights,” McIntyre said.

By John Kennedy