European Parliament votes in favor of EU data retention anti-terror plan

The European Parliament on Wednesday approved legislation requiring telecommunications companies to retain phone data and Internet logs for a minimum of six months in case they are needed for investigations into terrorism and other serious crimes. The bill, part of a new EU package of anti-terrorism measures, has drawn fire over privacy concerns. The telecommunications industry has questioned the feasibility and costs of maintaining so much data.

The legislation, which allows the individual governments to decide how long data should be retained as long as it was between six and 24 months, is likely to take effect next year, although it may face legal challenges in several countries.

The parliament voted 387-204, with 29 abstentions, to approve the bill, after the two biggest groups in the assembly, the conservative European People's Party and the Socialists, struck a deal last week to back it.

The measures, which were drafted by Britain after the London terrorist bombings in July and approved in record time, require companies to keep a wide range of data such as the incoming and outgoing phone numbers, the duration of phone calls, IP addresses, which identify a computer's coordinates on the Internet, login and logoff times and e-mail activity details, but not the actual content of communications.

Retention periods can exceptionally be extended by member states, subject to approval by the EU's executive Commission. Poland wants to store data for 15 years, a plan experts say may be unfeasible. Independent authorities will be designated to monitor the use of the data, which will have to deleted at the end of the period period unless it is kept for investigation purposes.

It will be left up to national authorities to decide whether telecom companies cover the cost for keeping data or be reimbursed by governments. The data-tracking plan is among 12 priority measures EU governments are pushing through following the July attacks on London's transport system that killed 56, including four suspected suicide bombers.

Britain, the current EU president, advocates tough anti-terrorism laws and says data retention has already proven invaluable in the investigations into the London attacks, reports the AP. I.L.

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