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Europe Debates Plan to Save All Internet Search Data

Non-binding adoption of the proposal has nonetheless led to an outcry of opposition from privacy groups and others

Europe Debates Plan to Save All Internet Search Data

BRUSSELS, Belguim—The European Union late last month adopted a “written declaration” that supports a proposal to save all internet search data in the fight against pedophilia, child pornography and sexual predators. While the adoption does not carry with it the force of law or an official implementation of the plan, it has nonetheless ignited opposition from groups concerned that it will compromise individual privacy.

The search data retention proposal, the brainchild of Italian Member of the European Parliament Tiziano Motti, would force search engines to save every keystroke for two years, to be kept available for police when requested. The proposal, known as Written Declaration 29, has a website, http://www.smile29.eu/.

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According to Fox News, “Under European Parliamentary rules the adoption of a written declaration merely means that a majority of the 736 members of the European Parliament ‘think’ the topic is worthy of further consideration.” Many members voted to adopt the measure, but immediately there were some misgivings, and one member even began to call for members to withdraw their support.

“Pedophiles and other sex marauders, experts say, don't randomly scan the web for victims,” said Fox. “They say prosecutions, fear of exposure and public humiliation [has] driven pedophiles to create and use far more sophisticated sites than open search engines. In short, the critics say, this commendable effort to stop sex crimes will do nothing of the sort and, instead, is a cloak for a massive assault on privacy.”

A Swedish minister, Christian Engström, is urging his colleagues to withdraw their support for Written Declaration 29, saying in a blog post that many members of the European Parliament have been misled into signing the declaration. Cecilia Wikström, another Swedish Member of Parliament, also has withdrawn her name from the declaration, saying that signing it was “a mistake” that happened simply because it was “an easy thing to do.”

San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) also has weighed in. “There is no rational evidence of the need for Written Declaration 29,” said Katitza Rodriguez of EFF, adding that “the Directive that it extends has proven not only unpopular” but is in apparent violation of European civil rights guarantees.

Rodriguez added that even if the EU formally adopts the proposal, it is unlikely it will ever become law.

“Five states haven’t even adopted the directive Written Declaration 29 is supposed to extend, and courts in Ireland and Germany have found that data retention legislation is unconstitutional," she said. "Moreover it may be in violation of the European Constitution of Human Rights. It just comes at the wrong time and we don’t see that it has much future.” 

The Written Declaration can be read here.






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