Blunkett to push for data retention

Brussels will come under pressure today to back plans for the “retention” of and access to mobile phone and internet data for use in the fight against organised crime and terrorism.

British officials, led by home secretary David Blunkett, will argue that security agencies must have the right to tap into communication logs if terrorism is to be defeated.

EU justice and interior ministers hold top-level security talks today at the behest of Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern – currently occupying the EU Presidency – following a request by Germany’s interior minister, Otto Schily.

The counter-terrorism gathering was hastily arranged in the wake of the Madrid rail bombings that left 201 dead and more than 1500 injured last Thursday.

Ministers will discuss whether internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile network operators should be required to disclose subscriber details, billing data, email logs, mobile phone location details and so on to security authorities.

Mr Blunkett, an advocate of “data retention”, believes the collective security of the majority outweighs the rights to privacy of the few.

The British Government says internet and mobile phone logs would give police a rich vein of “legal” data to track down potential assailants.

The Government introduced a voluntary code of practice last year covering the retention of data but it proved unpopular among ISPs and telcos, who raised concerns over possible infringements on human rights.

Although European ISPs back legal “data preservation” requests pertaining to individuals, industry representatives oppose snooping measures premised on “data retention”.

Richard Nash, general secretary of industry body EuroISPA, said the routine storage of files on all internet users was unacceptable.

EuroISPA says mandatory storage is an “extreme step,” detrimental to the public interest.