EU Passes Internet, Phone Logging Plan

The European Parliament voted 378 to 197 with 30 abstentions on Wednesday to approve a plan that would give law enforcement access to telephone and Internet data to help combat crime and fight terrorism. The legislation means service providers would be forced to log messages and conversations.

Under the new rules, businesses would be required to keep a record of phone calls from landline and mobile phones, text messages, and Internet-based conversations for a period of up to two years.

In the case of an EU member state that has a pre-existing holding period that is longer than the law states, that state would be able to keep the preexisting law.

Britain, which controls the rotating EU presidency at this time, had pushed for the law following the attacks in London in July of this year. The country called Wednesday a "very important day for the European Union in its fight against terrorism and organized crime."

The European telecommunications industry lamented the move, saying it would place a burden on the region's e-communications industry, and would make it less competitive.

The industry pointed to the fact that only a small number of e-mail services would fall under the new law, as the largest e-mail providers are not under EU jurisdiction. This could open up a loophole for criminals to continue to operate, the companies argued.

Some lawmakers also criticized supporters of the measure, saying they caved in to pressure from the countries justice ministers by allowing them to do what they want with the data without restrictions.

Others have criticized the law for being too broad. The head of data protection in Germany Petter Schaar warned that clarification of the laws was needed in order "to keep the intrusion on citizens as limited as possible."

Although the bill has been approved by the EU at large, it is still up to member states to individually approve the legislation before it becomes law.

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