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European Union7 June 2002

Reporters Without Borders calls on Internet service providers and telecommunications operators not to submit to new legislation and directives on data retention

Reporters Without Borders appealed on 6 June 2002 to Internet service providers (ISPs) and telecommunications operators in the 15 Member States of the European Union not to submit to new legislation regulating the retention of data from telephone and Internet communications (telephone calls, faxes, e-mail and Internet connections). The organisation also asks the operators to allow the police, internal security services and certain state agencies access to such data only if officially requested to do so by a magistrate.

"These are grave circumstances, which call for vigilance on your part. The climate of heightened consciousness about security that has reigned since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 is poised to legitimise a setback in freedom of expression for Europeans," considers Robert Ménard, Secretary-General of the organisation, in a letter sent to the operators. "The adoption by the European Parliament on 30 May 2002 of amendments to the 1997 European directive on data protection in the electronic communications sector, as well as existing legislation notably in France, Great Britain and Denmark on the retention of telecommunications data, is a challenge to the principle of journalists’ right not to reveal their sources and to the confidentiality of Europeans’ professional and personal communications. It is your duty to refuse to retain such data for more than three months, and to demand a magistrate’s warrant before allowing the police or internal security services access to this information," added Robert Ménard.

Article 15.1 of the text adopted by the European Parliament allows for measures concerning the interception, retention and examination of data from telephone calls, faxes, e-mails and Internet connections "for a limited period", the length of which is not specified but can be decided by each Member State. Those that do not already have this type of legislation in place will be required to submit legislative proposals to their parliaments within the next fifteen months.

Concerned by this threat to civil rights and individual and collective liberties, Reporters Without Borders has decided to offer alternative solutions to Internet-citizens who wish to protect the anonymity of their communications. On the home page of its web site - - the organisation provides a simple guide to downloading and using PGP cryptography software, an application that guarantees the confidentiality of e-mails.

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