I posted this on Viewropa, then figured my readership should also consider the issues.
Suw Charman argues, as I read it, that the very idea of telecoms traffic data capture is a bad thing.
The UK, France, Ireland and Sweden are trying to push a directive on data retention through into EU legislation which would force all member countries to compel all telecommunications and internet service providers to save information about the use of their services by us, the public (document 8958/2004). They say that this is for ‘the purpose of prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution of crime and criminal offences including terrorism’, but whilst it would have far-reaching consequences, the benefits appear to be non-existent.
Is the capture of telecoms traffic data really so pernicious though? I often err on the side of privacy fanaticism, so its interesting to me that on this issue I am more sanguine.
Anyone that doubts mobile phone records aren’t helpful in tracking criminals down is ignoring some of the facts, afaics.
I am pretty sure Danielle Jones’ parents, for example, would argue that the benefits of call record tracking are are far from non-existent.
Police propaganda? Perhaps.
By the same token of course, those that argue such a telecoms capture regime as the solution to all the EU’s problems are smoking something – crackdown i think it is.
So we need to have a debate.
I for one am very skeptical about the whining from industry about cost. Storage is ludicrously cheap these days, and if you dont stick everything in an Oracle database there are approaches that makes sense from a cost perspective. In fact a relational database makes little sense here, this is a read only index kind of opportunity, the kind of thing CopperEye is working on (disclaimer: client alert, the firm has helped educate me on some of the technical issues). Many European telcos are already storing 18 months or so of this data. The big difference will be in sharing this information…
Also, its not as if telcos don’t already capture and store VAST amounts of “useless” data. I call it “information bulimia”, a disorder common amongst information intermediaries, characterized by episodic binge data collection followed by uncontrollable vomiting and purging, leading to information leakage and theft.”
The biggest issue as i see it is who has access to the information. I would say Interpol and that’s it, across borders, and local law enforcement within a country.
But where *do* we draw the line? what kinds of crime merit use of the system?
Anyway, read Suw’s article, do some more reading and thinking, make up your own mind, and decide whether you need to make your feelings known. there are mechanisms for doing so.
One interesting point of context – the US appears to be moving in the other direction at the moment, towards more security of email data anyway. This week the decision that wire-tapping email was acceptable because it is different from phone networks was rescinded.
How do I sum up?
I propose a deal with Charles Clarke, the UK home secretary.
I will support you in calling for 18 months’s worth of telco traffic records across Europe, in return for dropping our big brother national ID scheme. Sound reasonable?
Problem is, it seems like Charles knows the ID card won’t fix our problems, but Tony “Focus Group says Strong Leader good” Blair believes otherwise.
It seems to me that we need to work with Charles, to keep Tony’s loonier tendencies at bay.
Telecoms record capture is not a black and white issue. Did i just turn into an conservative apologist?