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Europe

EU Lawmakers Approve Anti-Terror Telecom Measures

European Union lawmakers have approved measures to allow police greater access to telephone and Internet data to help fight terrorism and serious crime in the 25-state bloc.

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Telecom firms will have to record her call's destination but not its content

The measures would oblige businesses to keep details about callers, such as to whom they spoke, where and when, for between six months and two years. EU states with longer retention periods in place would be allowed to keep them.

The laws would apply to land telephone lines and mobile phones, text messages and Internet protocols. No record of the conversation or message itself would be kept.

EU countries would have the option of keeping information about unanswered calls, details of which proved decisive in the probe into the Madrid train bombings last year.

The vote is a major success for Britain, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, as it had pledged to try to force the measures through all the bloc's institutions before its mandate ends on Dec. 31.

Student mit WLan

People could circumvent the rules by signing up with Internet providers abroad

But it has angered Europe's communications industry, mainly for the costs the measures will incur, and it was sure to worry people concerned about their right to privacy.

"This agreement is a victory for democracy, a victory for our EU citizens, and a victory for the fundamental rights," EU justice commissioner Franco Frattini told members of the European Parliament. "This... is a major step forward from a point of view of combating not only terrorism but also, and let me stress that, serious crime more generally."

Industry sees measure as burden

Meanwhile, the EU's electronic communications industry said it regretted the move and lamented that it did not take into account the Internet world and its global nature.

"This directive will impose a significant burden on the European e-communications industry, impacting on its competitiveness," said five major European telecommunications organizations in a joint statement. "However only a fraction of the e-mail services used today would be covered by the EU directive as the world largest e-mail providers are not in Europe, allowing criminals to easily circumvent the rules.

"Beyond their economic consequences, far reaching data retention obligations may also undermine Europeans' confidence in new technologies," the industry representatives added.

Reaction to London bombings

Jahresrückblick 2005 Juli London Terror

The London bombings made Britain push for tighter telecommunication regulations

Spurred by the July 7 bombings in London, in which 56 people were killed on public transport, the British EU presidency has been trying to get agreement on telecoms records, biometric data and visa information.

Setting a virtually unprecedented time frame, Britain has succeeded in fast-tracking the ambitious package through the parliament, the EU's executive commission and the council of EU leaders in about three months.

Despite initial disagreement over the scope of the measures, the costs and who should pay them -- companies or member states -- and the duration of data retention, the deputies passed the measures by a clear majority.

Author wants name withdrawn

Before the assembly convened in Strasbourg, the leaders of the main political groups had agreed to accept a series of late amendments compiled by EU justice ministers at the beginning of the month.

The author of the report on which the measures were based, Alexander Nuno Alvaro, a member of parliament for Germany's free-market liberal Free Democrats, was angered by the move and denounced what he said was "pressure" on the lawmakers.

He also demanded that his name be withdrawn from the final text.

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