Pro and Contra data retention

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"Communications data retention is essential for fighting terrorism and organised crime" Wrong.

Even without the logging all usage of telephone, cell phone, e-mail and the internet enough data is available to combat crime effectively:

  • For billing purposes, some connection data is being stored anyway, in Germany for up to six months.
  • Furthermore, courts can issue warrants that allow the law enforcement authorities to record the communications data of particular suspects.
  • The terrorist attacs in Madrid in 2004 were solved using call data that was already available. No data retention was needed.
  • Before the data retention directive was passed in 2006, there were only a few countries in the world that practised data retention. None of these countries used such an all-embracing logging scheme as planned in the EU directive. International authorities always did without the total logging of telecommunication.

In a survey, the Federal Criminal Police Office names 381 cases in which investigators did not have enough call data - compared to 6 million crimes that are commited each year this is a marginal rate of 0.01%. In these cases additional data was needed to solve crimes that had already been committed. No crimes would have been prevented with additional data. Furthermore, just two of these 381 crimes were connected to terrorism, even though the fight against terrorism is consistantly being put forward as the main reason why data retention is necessary. According to the Federal Criminal Police Office, call data is mainly lacking in the investigation of child pornography as well as internet fraud. However, among all crimes these are the ones that already, without data retention, have the highest rate of being solved.

Data retention is ineffective against terrorism and organised crime:

  • Serious criminals remain undiscovered because they use alternative strategies to evade surveillance (as using several unregistered prepaid cards) or switch to other ways of communication (like letters, personal meetings)
  • Heinz Kiefer, the president of the european police association, warned in 2005: " It would remain easy for criminals to avoid detection by use of relatively simple technical means, such by using and frequently changing prepaid mobile phone cards bought abroad. The outcome would be an enormous effort that would have little more effect on terrorists than to annoy them a little.
  • Klaus Jansen, chairman of the confederation of german detectives, complains already today: "Because it is well-known that eavesdropping on telephone calls is relatively easy for the police, suspects rarely speak openly on the phone." If data retention comes, criminals will arrange with the new situation quickly.

If only one serious offense can be prevented, this justifies all data retention

A free and open communication is more important to our society than the attempt to possibly prevent every crime.
First of all it will hardly ever happen that a crime can be prevented by the means of call data, at most already committed crimes can be solved.
Even if in an exceptional case it was possible to prevent a crime, that wouldn't justify the logging of all populations communication. If the prevention of a crime justified any action, we would have to give up all basic rights, even the prohibition of torture and the regard of human dignity. All this human and civil rights could stand in the way of fighting crime in particular cases. All in all however this basic rights serve for sustaining a free society and a vital democracy, finally for the well-being of the whole population. To us this values are more vital than the attempt to possibly prevent every crime.
Anybody who wants to prevent any crime would have to stand for a speed limit on motorways, for strict bans on smoking and prohibition of acohol advertisement


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