(Yep a contender for “most exciting post title of the year”…)
Via the EU Law blog, a PDF of an article due to appear in the Spring 2007 edition of the Chicago Journal of International Law by Professor Francesca Bignami of the Duke University School of Law, “Protecting Privacy against the Police in the European Union: The Data Retention Directive”.
See The Register for handy background on the lovely law, Wikipedia for an even shorter version, or the (now defunct) campaign site against the directive, which explains why it was (originally) likely to be so bad.
The basic fear of the directive’s opponents was that vast amounts of information about each and every EU citizen – mobile phone records, emails, the works – would end up stored on some vast Orwellian database somewhere, freely accessible by any law enforcement agency in the EU and, potentially, even by those from outside the club. The reason it was the fear? Because that was the entire point of the bloody thing.
Did I mention that it was planned out and proposed by the UK, under the direction of dear old freedom-loving Tony Blair, who knew that he’d never convince MPs in Westminster to back such a ridiculous proposal? (Much like when he tried to get ID cards imposed via Brussels, just in case Westminster kicked up a fuss…)
Thankfully, however, MEPs were unconvinced and watered the damned thing down. To quite what extent was less than clear (it’s an EU law we’re talking about, after all – these things make Finnegan’s Wake look like Spot the Dog), but now Bignami’s gone through and done a bit of analysis to work out just what the thing’s impact is likely to be, longer term. Still early days, but she seems to think the privacy safeguards that were introduced should do the job – although not without also recommending an EU Human Rights watchdog to keep an eye on it all to make sure.
The article’s only 22 pages, and surprisingly readable for an academic paper on EU law. If you live in the EU – and yes, that does mean Britain – and are concerned with the whole civil liberties thing, have a gander.