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Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Euro Deputies Pass Anti-terror Telecom Measures

EU lawmakers voted through measures to allow police across Europe greater access to telephone and Internet data to help fight terrorism and serious crime.

The e-surveillance plans had been approved by the 25 member countries last July, and currently the legislation base has been discussed.

The measures would oblige businesses to keep details about callers, such as whom they spoke to, where and when, for between six months and two years. EU states with longer retention periods in place would be allowed to keep them.

The laws would apply to land telephone lines and mobile phones, text messages, and Internet protocols. No record of the conversation or message itself would be kept.

EU countries would have the option of keeping information about unanswered calls.

However, the vote has angered Europe's communications industry, mainly for the costs the measures will incur, and is sure to worry people concerned about their right to privacy.

Despite initial disagreement over the scope of the measures, the costs and who should pay them -- companies or member states -- and data retention periods, the deputies passed the measures by a clear majority.

Before the assembly sat in Strasbourg, the leaders of the main political groups agreed to accept a series of late amendments compiled by EU justice ministers at the beginning of the month.

In a statement, the EU's electronic communications industry said it regretted the move and lamented that it did not take into account the Internet world and its global nature.

"This directive will impose a significant burden on European e-communications industry, impacting on its competitiveness," said five major European telecommunications organisations in a statement.

"However only a fraction of the email services used today would be covered by the EU directive as the world largest email providers are not in Europe, allowing criminals to easily circumvent the rules," they said.

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