Campaign against EU Data Retention Directive in Belgium

A number of Belgian organisations have launched a campaign against the transposition into Belgian law of the European Data Retention directive. The group declares that the effect of the Directive not only violates any right to privacy under Belgian law, but also interferes with the professional confidentiality of doctors, lawyers and clerics, as well as journalists’ protection of their sources.

The organisations include the Flemish and Walloon League for Human Rights, the Flemish and Walloon Bar, the Flemish and Walloon Association of Journalists, the Belgian Order of Physicians and a Belgian association for Telecom and Internet customers. They call on the Belgian population to sign a petition against the Directive and its implementation in Belgian law.

The group believes that the European Data Retention directive (Directive 2006/24/EC) was adopted too fast and without sufficient reflection or deliberation, and notes that it has been strongly criticised throughout the European Union.

The Directive compels telecom operators and Internet providers to retain records of all telecom traffic and for mobile calls the physical location at the time, including information such as the source, the destination, the date, the time and the duration of the call, together with the communication equipment and its location.

The group is not convinced that a general obligation to retain data is necessary, and believes that less drastic measures, such as data retention where there are tangible suspicions and an authorisation by an independent judge, remain sufficient for effective law enforcement.

A general obligation to retain traffic and location data represents a serious violation of the right to privacy and implies that each citizen is potentially dangerous, believes the group. The Directive as it is constructed interferes with professional confidentiality, with the work of doctors, lawyers, journalists and clerics, as well as with political and business activities which require confidentiality.

Furthermore, the group believes that the need for a general obligation to retain data was never proven, either at a European or Belgian level, and various experts have pointed out that this obligation cannot protect the general populace against terrorism or crime.

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