EU Liberal Party against data retention: "You have rights -- use them!"
At the end of the year, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) will launch a European campaign for civil rights. As MEP Alexander Alvaro (FDP) put it, in a discussion organized by the Young Liberals on data retention that took place yesterday in Munich, the goal is to make it clear to people that the internet is not only a place for people to meet in friendly chat rooms, but also where the government and industry collect a growing amount of data about users in order to generate profiles. The Liberals plan to raise awareness with a simple message towards this end: "You have rights – use them!"
In addition to the right to know what is being done with your own personal data, the ALDE says it will be focusing on the right to free speech and other basic rights in its campaign. Although recent scandals related to the misuse of data have brought data retention into the spotlight, the Alliance nonetheless feels that a large number of citizens are simply not aware of the risks to their privacy. "We are not just talking about data retention", Alvaro explained. "We are also talking about the sharing of passenger flight data, the use of biometric features in passports, and so forth." Recently, Sweden passed a resolution to monitor traffic and data content in all telecommunications, and in a move highly criticised by the EU parliament, Italy has also announced its intention to create a database containing the biometric features of Italy's Roma – nomadic people equivalent to Romani, travellers or Gypsie – all of which, the ALDE says, adds up to a rather frightening affair. Alvaro said that some projects promoted by the EU are equally frightening, such as the project in which cameras will be used to monitor passengers during flights.
Representatives of data protectionist organisations in Germany reported in Munich that the number of people requesting assistance is growing in the light of recent privacy scandals in Germany. Alvaro welcomed the collaboration between the general civil rights movement and his party, and he also expressed his support for the class-action suit being brought to the German Supreme Court. At the event in Munich, Alvaro and his party colleague Jimmy Schulz once again criticised the controversial legislation. Alvaro said there is now an imbalance between the state's obligation to protect its citizens and respect their liberties.
He said that the directive had been adopted as a knee-jerk reaction to the terrorist attacks in London. "The Parliament practically adopted what the European Council presented word for word." Alvaro and Schulz said one problem is that national and European parliamentarians alike lack knowledge about IT and hence about the effects of such a decision. But they also say that a growing number of their colleagues in the European Parliament who originally voted for data retention, because they thought it was necessary to combat terrorism, now say they receive bitter complaints from civil rights activists and companies at home.