The Impact of the Data-Retention ECJ Ruling on the Law Enforcement Activities

From the Law Enforcement perspective, the ECJ ruling that on Apr. 8, 2014 declared invalid the Data Retention Directive didn’t harm its investigation to such a greater extent as somebody has claimed. There are, indeed, other legal tools that can be used to fit the purpose of getting traffic data of interest.

First, ISPs and telco operators might still retain traffic data for other legitimate purposes and for longer periods than the six months “sponsored” by the ECJ. This can happens either with the consent of the customer (for marketing and commercial purposes) or without (in case the traffic data have to be retained to meet under a statutory term (in Italy, ten years) the legal obligation to provide evidence to the tax authorities that the billed services have actually been provided and that the ISP is not involved in a money laundering activity. Thus as soon as some data – though not all the one retained under the now defunct DRD – are available, a prosecutor can always seize it.

Second, the Budapest Convention on cybercrime allows the public authorities to issue a “data-freeze” order to avoid the deletion. Again, this might be a second best solution, but it is currently working and viable.

Third, the national Data Protection Authorities have the power, under the Directive 95/46, to issue orders to “customize” the implementation of this legal instrument so to match the requirements of the ECJ, thus legally keeping alive, though maybe partially, the intrinsic admissibility of the data-retention as such under the current European Data Protection legal framework.

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