There was a major victory for privacy rights today when the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that the 2006 Data Retention Directive is invalid on the grounds that it severely interferes with two of our fundamental rights: the right to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data.
Under the Directive, telecoms companies were obliged to collect and retain location and traffic data about our personal phone calls, text messages, emails and internet use. They could retain that information for between six months and two years. Today, the ECJ found that the Directive did not define enough restrictions to limit this intrusion to what is "strictly necessary".
Importantly, the ECJ's statement recognises that locations and traffic data about our private communications do, ''provide very precise information on the private lives of the persons whose data are retained”. The argument that metadata somehow does not reveal anything about our lives has often been used to justify surveillance by the state. It was used when the government tried to introduce the Communications Data Bill and again more recently to justify mass surveillance by GCHQ and the NSA. The Court's recognition that this just isn't true is important for those of us fighting against disproportionate and indiscriminate surveillance.
Although the Directive itself has been found invalid, the national legislation brought in to deliver it still stands. However, laws could now be open to challenges and will no longer have the backing of the EU. Open Rights Group will now look into whether we should try and mount a legal challenge in the UK.