Sunday 15 March 2009

The hour draweth nigh...

Matron just looked at the calendar and noticed that today is the day when all EU member states must have fully implemented the Data Retention Directive into domestic law - "fully" in this context meaning transposition for internet data as well as for telephony data.

The UK has not yet made that deadline although transposition is probably imminent following the recent publication of the government's response to the relevant consultation (see Matron's previous post on the issue). The good news is that other countries are also still dragging their feet, many of them having waited for the recent ECJ decision in relation to the Ireland challenge (again, see Matron's previous rant on the decision) before deciding whether they should implement the Directive at all, given it's dubious human right credentials.

What with all the excitement, Matron isn't quite sure whether to be pleased or disappointed at a piece of news she picked up at a conference in Salzburg last month, namely that the Austrian government, so far a stern resister of data retention, has now invited the Ludwig Bolzmann Institute for Human Rights in Vienna under the leadership of Prof. Hannes Tretter to draft the Austrian law concerning the implementation of the directive. Now, Matron has had the good fortune to participate in a seminar hosted by Prof Tretter last year, and he did not seem to her to be the kind of chap who would take the human rights issues arising from these measures lightly. On the other hand, the fact that the Austrian government does now seriously consider transposition seems a bit of a drawback for civil rights campaigners.

In a press release (in German), the Institute confirms that it is itself doubtful about the compatibility of the directive with human rights and that it expects further legal actions to be brought in the future, both before the ECJ and the ECtHR. However, in view of the fact that these actions could take years to be resolved and that the member states' obligation to implement the directive continues to exist in the meantime, the Institute is restricted to pursuing a course of damage limitation while, at the same time, considering the potential consequences, both in domestic and EU law, of transposing a legal measure that may violate human rights.

So there may be a smidgen of light at the end of the tunnel, but it remains a very long tunnel!

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