EU data snooping law set to pass

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The government looks set to go along with a controversial EU directive to store telephone and e-mail traffic data for the inspection of the police, despite reservations from two of the government’s three coalition partners.

The EU’s Data Retention Directive (DRD) was approved in Brussels in 2007.  According to the directive, member states will have to store citizens’ telecommunications data for up to 24 months and the EU wants non-member states like Norway to go conform as well. If not, Norway may find itself out of favour with EU officials in Brussels.

Under to the directive, police and security agencies will be able to request IP addresses and times of every e-mail, phone call or text message sent or received. Such information will be released, though, only after the issuing of a court order.

Privacy issues at stake
“The Data Retention Directive allows wide-ranging surveillance and makes significant inroads into the individual citizen’s rights to privacy,” claimed Kristin Halvorsen of the Socialist Left, one of the three coalition partners. “We don’t want a society where the state stores detailed information about peoples’ everyday activities.” Her government colleague Liv Signe Navarsete of the Center Party (Sp) agrees, but their dominant partner, the Labour Party, doesn’t want to defy the EU.

That’s caused dissension. “The usefulness to the police is not sufficient seen in relation to the imposition that this represents to ordinary people. Consequently SV and Sp ministers are dissenting from their own government’s policy in implementing the DRD,” declared Halvorsen and Navarsete.

All the other parties in Norway’s parliament are also against the directive, with the exception of the Conservatives (H). In order to get it into Norwegian law, the Labour Party (Ap) has to look to the Conservatives for enough votes.

Needed to deal with rising crime
Foreign minister Jonas Gahr Støre (Ap) told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), that he wants to avoid a situation where Norway is less well-equipped to deal with serious crime than the rest of Europe. He stressed that the information will only be made available subsequent to a court order and that the actual content of the traffic is not divulged. He added that only suspicion of crimes carrying a sentence of four years or more qualify.

Justice Minister Knut Storberget says that DRD is extremely important. He told NRK that in 60- to 70 percent of cases where the police have asked for records of data and telephone traffic, the results have been central to proving the guilt of the accused. The convictions have been for murder, narcotics-related crimes, crimes against children and organized crime.

The Conservatives will want to exact a price for saving the government from its own internal disagreement. Whereas the Labour Party wants the information to be stored for 12 months, the Conservatives have demanded that the minimum period allowed of six months should be used in the Norwegian law which stems from the EU directive.

Views and News from Norway/Sven Goll
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