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Friday, September 09, 2005 

Mobile and net operators put boot in Clarke's ridiculous data plans.

Mobile phone and internet companies yesterday warned EU ministers that counter-terrorism plans for the compulsory storage of billions of phone and internet records would prove expensive and intrusive, with far-reaching implications for every citizen.

Industry experts also claimed that the demands for extra data to be stored on the location of mobile phone callers breached existing European privacy laws. The data will have to be stored for a minimum of 12 months and will be accessible to police and security services investigating terrorism and serious crime.

The EU-wide plan for the compulsory storage of telephone and internet data means that the industry would have to store records that not only tracked which numbers were dialled, the time and duration of calls, but also the location of the caller from a mobile throughout and at the end of the call. They would also have to record the location of the phone being called. Internet companies would have to preserve records of when users logged on and off their networks but not track the websites that had been visited.

While some of this data is already held for up to six months by the companies for billing purposes the industry says that the demand for the details of location of phone calls breaks new ground.

"We retain data for legitimate business reasons for three to six months but we believe the rationale for change and making far more intrusive measures remains unproved," said Michael Bartholomew of the European Telecommunications Network Operators's Association.

He said the demand for location data breached existing European data protection laws. He also protested about the demand for data about unsuccessful calls to be collected, claiming it would mean a typical mobile phone operator having to reconfigure 1,600 switches at a cost of £€160m (£108m). "We think this is a rather unsophisticated approach to a complex problem. Our plea to the ministers is to have more dialogue with the industry."

In other words, the government wants not only the police, but also the company in charge of the contract and no doubt many othebureaucracieses to have access to information about where you made a mobile call and throughout the duration of it. If this doesn't smack of a snoopers charter, with the possibility not only ounscrupulousus police but also private-sector employees being able to keep tabs on nearly anyone. In addition, the money needed to get the companies to make the necessary changes to their systems will doubtless be passed straight onto the consumer, screwing the public in not one but two ways. Let's hope that the industry's opposition to Clarke's plans at least limit the final law.

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