Expected ECJ Rulings on Blanket Data Retention: eco Association Warns Against Across-the-Board Digital Surveillance 

  • ECJ rulings must favour data protection & privacy
  • Companies bear high risk when retaining highly sensitive data
  • eco and other associations are critical of EU Commission study
  • German blanket data retention at the ECJ: eco supports SpaceNet lawsuit

 The European Court of Justice (ECJ) is due to rule on blanket data retention in four different cases on Tuesday, 6 October. A total of three lawsuits originate from France and Belgium, while, at the same time, the lawsuit of the British civil rights organisation Privacy International will be party to a separate ruling. eco – Association of the Internet Industry has been actively campaigning against blanket data retention for almost 15 years. With its eye on the forthcoming European Court of Justice decision, the association warns against an obligation to constantly subject private life to surveillance, and thereby hopes for a ruling which favours fundamental rights in Europe. eco is also critical of the fact that Germany is now using its Council Presidency to set up EU-wide initiatives on blanket data retention in order to push ahead with the retention of user data, regardless of whether or not there is room for suspicion.

“Blanket data retention massively encroaches on civil rights in the area of data protection, the protection of informational self-determination, and the secrecy of telecommunications,” says eco Chair of the Board Oliver Süme. “In Germany alone, 520 million data records per day will be generated if the obligation to retain data is enforced.” In addition, blanket data retention also poses enormous risks for companies in its actual implementation. “The more that highly sensitive data gets to be retained at the sole instigation of the state, the greater the challenges for companies to protect this data.” Süme therefore also warns of a likely overburdening of companies.

“I very much hope that the ECJ will follow the recommendations of Advocate General Campos Sánchez-Bordona,” Süme continues. “The EU Commission or individual Member States, including Germany, are still trying to revitalise blanket data retention, even though the general retention of data without cause was not and hopefully never will conform with German or European law.”

The EU Commission, for example, recently published a study which imputes the necessity of blanket data retention from the outset, but does not examine its necessity or possible alternatives. In a joint statement published in May this year, eco and other associations pointed to these and other shortcomings in the study’s preparation.

German blanket data retention at the ECJ: eco supports SpaceNet lawsuit

eco – Association of the Internet Industry is backing the lawsuit filed by its member company SpaceNet on blanket data retention in Germany, which is also currently pending before the European Court of Justice. In June 2017, eco and SpaceNet succeeded in obtaining a ruling from the Higher Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia that the German blanket data retention law runs contrary to EU law. Consequently, the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) suspended the implementation of the retention obligation for all companies concerned. However, the German federal government didn’t want to accept the court decisions and took the matter to the German Federal Administrative Court. The Federal Administrative Court suspended the proceedings and referred the matter to the European Court of Justice to rule on the compatibility of German data retention with EU law.

The technical background to blanket data protection in Germany is available in the Fact Sheet: What is Traffic Data?

Expected ECJ Rulings on Blanket Data Retention: eco Association Warns Against Across-the-Board Digital Surveillance