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Germany

EU Data-Retention Bill Likely to Be Delayed

The controversial EU plans for logging and storing telecommunications data, which have triggered both financial and civil liberty concerns across Europe, are still lacking the unanimous support of EU member states.

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They'll know what you did last summer

EU member states are unlikely to reach a deal on improving police access to telephone and Internet data next month as planned, German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries

said on Thursday.

"I can't imagine that a decision would be made in four weeks," she told reporters as she arrived at an informal meeting of EU justice and interior ministers in Newcastle, northern England.

The member states committed themselves to reaching an agreement on the issue by October, following the bombings in London on July 7, in which 52 commuters were killed during the morning rush hour.

Weighing security against the costs

Bundesjustizministerin Brigitte Zypries

German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries believes more time is needed for an EU-wide agreement

Zypries said that several questions about the controversial measures remained unanswered, such as who will foot the potentially massive bill for keeping records on calls and e-mail for up to a year.

"For German companies, it would cost more than 100 million euros ($124 million). Either the state will pay for it or the consumers. In the end, you have to weigh security against the costs," she said.

The deal, according to a project presented last year by Britain, France, Ireland and Sweden, would affect a wide range of equipment including land line and mobile telephones, text messages, e-mails and Internet protocols.

Extending legal boundaries?

Mit Handy und Computer im Freien

Civil liberty advocates are worried about privacy intrusions

The main thrust of it is that telecom operators would keep, generally for a year, information concerning the sender, receiver, time, place and length of any communication but not a record of the conversation or message itself. Internet data would be retained for six months.

The ministers also want records of calls that went unanswered to be included. Those details were vital for Spanish police investigating the Madrid bombings in March 2004.

The plan allows, however, a certain degree of flexibility in applying the rules.

"We could not go beyond six months because we are bound by the decision of our parliament" on retaining data, said Zypries. German firms usually keep such information for three to six months for billing purposes.

German Interior Minister Otto Schily said that he would be willing to try to push that period out to a year.

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