Dutch Telcos Used Customer Metadata, Retained To Fight Terrorism, For Everyday Marketing Purposes

from the I'm-shocked,-shocked dept

One of the ironies of European outrage over the global surveillance conducted by the NSA and GCHQ is that in the EU, communications metadata must be kept by law anyway, although not many people there realize it. That's a consequence of the Data Retention Directive, passed in 2006, which:

requires operators to retain certain categories of data (for identifying users and details of phone calls made and emails sent, excluding the content of those communications) for a period between six months and two years and to make them available, on request, to law enforcement authorities for the purposes of investigating, detecting and prosecuting serious crime and terrorism.
Notice the standard invocation of terrorism and serious crime as a justification for this kind of intrusive data gathering -- the implication being that such highly-personal information would only ever be used for the most heinous of crimes. In particular, it goes without saying that there is no question of it being accessed for anything more trivial -- like this, say:
Some Dutch telecommunications and Internet providers have exploited European Union laws mandating the retention of communications data to fight crime, using the retained data for unauthorised marketing purposes.
Of course, the news will come as no surprise to the many people who warned that exactly this kind of thing would happen if such stores of high-value data were created. But it does at least act as a useful reminder that whatever the protestations that privacy-destroying databases will only ever be used for the most serious crimes, there is always the risk of function creep or -- as in the Netherlands -- outright abuse. The only effective way to stop it is not to retain such personal information in the first place.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Oct 2013 @ 6:57am


    Theorycrafting much?

    What you propose is completely unfathomable for any country to do. Even if a country did that, I would bet that the European Commission will renew the directive ahead of schedule to deal with it or even the Council could step in.

    "Could" is a political question here. In this case the problem is that the other countries in the union are very unlikely to let such slipshod implementation pass muster.

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