Irish Govt to retain all web, text and phone data for two years


13 Jul 2009

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Ireland’s Justice Minister, Dermot Ahern TD, has published a Bill that will require the retention of all telephone and internet data for a minimum of two years to facilitate criminal investigations.

The Communications (Retention of Data) Bill 2009 will enable a member of An Garda Síochána not below the rank of chief superintendent to instruct an internet service provider (ISP) to hand over data as part of a criminal investigation.

Minister Ahern said the purpose of requesting such information could be to prevent serious crimes, safeguard the security of the State and save human life.

It will also allow an officer of the Permanent Defence Forces not below the rank of colonel to request data such as email, IP addresses, text messages, etc, in the interest of national security.

Revenue tax officers not below the rank of principal officer may also request such data while investigating and prosecuting specified revenue offences.

"Following extensive consultations with An Garda Síochána and the service providers, I have decided that telephone data should be retained for two years, that is, a reduction from three years, and internet data for 12 months,” Minister Ahern said.

“I am satisfied that these are the minimum periods required by An Garda Síochána and the Permanent Defence Force to ensure that the Gardaí have the means to fight crime, including gangland crime, and for the Gardaí and Defence Force to safeguard the security of the State.

“It is also essential that the Revenue Commissioners be in a position to investigate revenue offences that are often aimed at defrauding the State. Information from retained data is also important in ensuring a secure environment for doing business in Ireland,” Ahern said.

The Bill will consolidate the existing provisions in Part 7 of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005 and the requirements of Directive 2006/24/EC.

"The Government is committed to protecting every citizens’ constitutional right to privacy by ensuring that the new Bill does not allow for the content of communications to be stored or retrieved,” the Minister said.

“It does no more than provide information about the who, the where and the when of a communication.”

In addition, the Minister also outlined further safeguards in the Bill: “The Data Protection Commissioner will be the national supervisory authority for the purposes of the Act.

“The High Court judge who oversees the operation of the interception of communications provisions and the retention of telephone data provisions will also oversee the operation of the internet data provisions.

“In addition, anyone who believes that data relevant to him/her has been accessed following a disclosure request can apply to the Complaints Referee, who will investigate whether a disclosure request has been made as alleged and, if so, whether the relevant provisions of the Act have been contravened,” Minister Ahern said.

By John Kennedy