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European Internet service providers and data-protection commissioners are stepping up their resistance against the demands from police agencies to snoop on electronic communications. German ISPs, joined by small-sized local telecom firms, spoiled a meeting held on Tuesday by Germany’s minister of economics and technology, Werner Muller. Last week, the chairman of the European data-protection watchdogs, Stefano Rodota, sent a letter to European lawmakers warning against “unacceptable” demands by police agencies to pre-emptively store telecom data. The meeting with Muller actually was meant to trumpet the ministry’s projects for network security, but the ISPs acted as flies in the ointment. They complained about a piece of legislation with the tongue-twisting title “Telekommunikations – Uberwachungsverordnung” (TKUV), or telecommunications surveillance directive, which was proposed in February by the ministry. The TKUV would extend the surveillance of voice telephony to all varieties of telecommunications. But though the former state monopoly Deutsche Telekom and the big mobile operators have well-established processes and interfaces for surveillance when police come to them with a warrant, this is not the case with smaller ISPs. Michael Rotert, spokesman of the industry association Eco, estimates that 4,000 providers would have to invest up to several million euros in hardware to comply with the TKUV. “If the directive passes as it is, billions will be uselessly invested in the network,” Rotert said. Eco questions that the efficiency of surveillance warrants such a costly step. Muller promised to continue the debate on the TKUV in the coming weeks. In early July a parliamentary committee will discuss the draft. While the ISPs complain for commercial reasons, the data-protection watchdogs invoke nothing less than the Convention of Human Rights in their letters to the European Commission, Parliament and the Swedish president of the council. The privacy commissioners are concerned about a proposal known as Enfopol 38, drafted by police authorities in European countries, that calls for telecom and Internet providers to store so-called traffic data. Traffic data — as opposed to the actual communications content — include lists of calls, faxes or e-mail messages a person made, received or missed. Some of this information is stored for billing purposes but is usually deleted after a short time — typically three months. The police authorities demand that this data be stored much longer so that it can be investigated later. The British National Criminal Intelligence Service has suggested a seven-year limit. “Systematic and preventive storage of EU citizens’ communications and related traffic data would undermine the fundamental rights to privacy, data protection, freedom of expression, liberty and presumption of innocence”, the privacy commissioners’ letter states. “Could the information society still claim to be a democratic society under such circumstances?” Related Articles from The Industry Standard: Boeing Set to Launch Airborne Internet Service U.S. Court Will Decide Yahoo’s French Fate GE Offers Concessions to EU on Honeywell Deal Copyright � 2001 The Industry Standard

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