EU to give anti-terror units power to eavesdrop

By Constant Brand
Tuesday 21 January 2014 04:40

The European Parliament yesterday passed weakened data protection and privacy rules, bowing to pressure from European Union governments eager to boost controls in their fight against terrorism.

The new legislation, which faces final approval by the 15 EU member-states, will give anti-terrorist investigators greater powers to eavesdrop on private data on the internet and other electronic records.

In a key amendment that passed by a vote of 351 to 133, the parliament also gave EU governments the power to force internet and phone companies to retain data and logs of their clients beyond the normal one or two-month billing period.

The EU assembly said governments could ask companies to retain data for an unspecified "limited time" if they determine it necessary "to safeguard national security."

Civil liberty groups and many EU lawmakers fear the restrictions would severely weaken privacy legislation.

"Looking at the results, this amounts to a restriction on privacy and increases the powers of the state," said an Italian independent MEP, Marco Cappato, who authored the bill but failed to stop the amended clause from being inserted.

While the bill binds EU governments to adhere to privacy rights enshrined in the 50-year-old European Convention on Human Rights, privacy advocates fear the new rules are a step in the wrong direction. (AP)

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