So, which web sites did you visit six months ago?

  Forum Editor 10:30 22 Jan 2006

You probably don't remember, but your ISP will know, when a new European directive becomes law - probably some time later this year.

The draft Data Retention directive will require ISPs and Telecoms companies to retain details of incoming, outgoing, and unanswered calls, including the numbers, and the duration of the calls. Mobile phone operators are included. ISPs will retain the urls of the sites you visited, the length of time you spent, both on individual sites and online generally, and your name and address. They'll also be retaining details of your email 'activity' although this will not extend to keeping the content of emails.

All this information will be available to the Police, and to the judiciary, for investigations into terrorist activities and serious crime. I'm not sure whether 'serious crime' is defined in the legislation, but I assume there'll be some guidelines on this. Our government strongly supports this directive, saying that the information that will be stored could be a 'crucial tool' in police investigations. Telecoms companies have been quick to point out that it will cost money to set up this secure data storage system (I had hoped they were doing it already, but hey,ho) and that, not unsurprisingly, it will be the consumer who pays.

The Irish government is expected to challenge the directive in the European courts, but I can't understand why, it all sounds pretty good to me, and not at all a potential minefield. I'm sure you're all in complete agreement with me,aren't you?

Well, aren't you?

  Arthur Scrimshaw 10:42 22 Jan 2006

but I can't resist!
I think it's extremely bad news. I'm not a conspiracy nut but I hate this ever tightening control freak mentality of our government.
I know it's moving the discussion to a wider area but all the measures introduced to 'guarantee' our safety against the threat of terrorism are total overkill to the actual, real threat and this is just another example.

There - I've said it now. I await my fate!

  Forum Editor 10:56 22 Jan 2006

First fish on the line, well done.

I look forward to a healthy discussion on this topic, but I should stress the need to keep party politics out of it. You are not alone in wondering if we really need to be quite so well 'protected', and of course there's always this question of what defines protection. Some people see measures such as are proposed in this legislation as nothing more or less than governments snooping on their citizens.

As a citizen I'm all for protection, and all against snooping, so where does that leave me - how do you tell the bad guys from the good ones? I'm a good guy of course, you all know that, but would i know a bad guy or gal from his/her surfing habits? Suppose I was researching a book on international terrorism, and collaborating with writers in other countries - I might be trawled up in the protective net, and have a hard time convincing some security agent that I wasn't coordinating an international attack on the Kent strawberry fields.

  VoG II 11:11 22 Jan 2006

I'm afraid that I think that this is yet another manifestation of the nanny state mentality that both the European Commission and our own Government seem wedded to. And ultimately of course it is we who will be funding this either through increased ISP subscriptions or taxation.

click here for a scanned version of the draft from July last year.

  rdave13 11:23 22 Jan 2006

The next logical "big brother" step will be we'll all be "chipped" at birth.So not only will the state know all about you but they'll know exactly where you are.

  ayrmail 11:29 22 Jan 2006

Not sure what use all this is if the content is not kept. We have seen to our cost over the last few years what happens when people react to information which is incomplete, unsubstantiated or just wrong. I am happy for the information to be made available to the Police or Judiciary for such investigation but it should be complete.
As far as ISP’s charging like you not surprised, though you must have your tongue firmly in your cheek re whether they were already doing this, as even if part of their operation they gathered this information as a by product of supplying the service they would still consider it an opportunity to justify an increase but market forces will ultimately decide that.

  spuds 11:32 22 Jan 2006

This will be another one of those problems like the new ID card controversy. Whose going to pay and how much, with all sorts of momentary figures being thrown about.Just think of the shock and alarm, when your ISP or service provider put an extra tax on your bill to cover for this provision being requested by government.

Then we come on the subject of actually policing the system, and whether these records will be place into 'confidential storage' for the next thirty years, before the public as access, including the individuals involved. The Freedom of Information Act or the Data Protection Act with no doubt require some revisions.

  GANDALF <|:-)> 11:33 22 Jan 2006

It really does not bother me. If they want to keep a record of my web meanderings then they are perfectly welcome to it as it is triple dull. Judging by the Governments' sterling record on commissioning new computer technology, I feel that the paranoid will have little to fear.

If you do nothing wrong then you have nothing to worry about. They will only check these if you were suspected of terrorism etc. and I say well done to that.


  bremner 11:35 22 Jan 2006

Regarding what is a “Serious Crime” – it may be this.

The new Serious and Organised Crime Act has amended the term “Serious Arrestable Offence” to “Serious Offence”.

And this includes:Treason, murder, manslaughter, rape, kidnapping, incest or intercourse with a girl under 13, buggery with a boy under 16, indecent assault constituting gross indecency, causing an explosion likely to endanger life or property, certain offences under the Firearms Act 1968, causing death by dangerous driving, hostage taking, torture and many drug-related offences, ship hijacking and Channel Tunnel train hijacking, taking indecent photographs of children, publication of obscene matter.

  Forum Editor 11:39 22 Jan 2006

they are in a no-win situation.

If there is a sudden and indiscriminate terrorist outrage the authorities invariably come under attack for not doing enough to protect innocent citizens.

Then if the same governments put in place measures to help them detect and deter such attacks those same innocent citizens complain that they're being snooped on, and that they're living in a nanny state. Either way, its the governments' fault, and of course the bad guys always have the edge, because they're the instigators. Tools which help governments to spot something before it happens are obviously important, so where do you go from there?

We probably all like to think that we're capable of looking after ourselves to a degree, and that commonsense will protect us, but of course where terrorism is concerned we're wrong. My son was in the train that left Kings Cross station ahead of the one that had the July 2005 bomb. He thinks he felt the train rock slightly from the blast running along the tunnel. That might have been his imagination - in any event, he was only separated from the bomb by two minutes at most. All the commonsense in the world wouldn't have helped him, had he been one train later.

The truth is, short of curtailing their normal daily activities drastically, ordinary people living in our cities and towns cannot protect themselves from indiscriminate attacks of that nature, and we look to our elected government to do it for us. The huge question, and one which ultimately involves us all, is whether the end justifies the means. If one terrorist incident is averted because all of us have to submit to our telephone call histories being stored then I say it's worth it.

But how are we to know if some of the data leaks to unauthorised destinations, do we trust the data collectors to pay enough attention to security, and will the knowledge that such data is being stored have any effect on our surfing/phoning habits?

So many questions.

  Arthur Scrimshaw 11:44 22 Jan 2006

"Any people that would give up liberty for a little temporary safety deserves neither liberty nor safety." Benjamin Franklin

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