EU to take hard line on German resistance to data storage

Tue May 29, 2012 1:33pm EDT

* Germany faces legal action for not implementing EU rules

* German coalition govt divided over data retention rules

BRUSSELS May 29 (Reuters) - The EU executive is planning to refer Germany to the European Union's highest court over its failure to introduce a law obliging phone and internet companies to store records for at least six months, a document seen by Reuters on Tuesday showed.

The case, which is expected to be brought on Thursday to the European Court of Justice, follows a European Commission directive in 2006, aiming to help authorities track down suspected perpetrators of "serious crime".

The directive ordered the 27 member states to introduce laws obliging telecoms companies to store records of people's emails and phone calls, including those made via the Internet.

The German government tried to introduce such a law, but the country's top court rejected it in March 2010 saying it led to a "particularly deep intrusion into telecommunications privacy".

Telecoms and internet providers typically store consumer data for a limited period of time, either for quality control or accounting.

Referral to the EU court is the final stage in an infringement procedure and can sometimes result in a fine.

In a paper outlining the rules, the Commission said though such laws were "a restriction of the right to privacy" they would be used by police on "a case by case basis" without revealing the content of communication.

Telecoms companies have access to different sets of data on a call, including its destination, date, time and duration, as well as type of equipment and sometimes location if the person is using a smartphone.

Germany's ruling liberal and conservative coalition partners have been at loggerheads over the EU data retention rules.

The German Minister for Justice, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, has said she wants law enforcement authorities to produce more concrete evidence of wrongdoing before they can access people's data.

The liberal politician recently wrote to her conservative coalition partner for home affairs, Hans Peter Friedrich, to ask him to help her review the EU legislation. (Reporting By Claire Davenport and Francesco Guarascio; Editing By Sebastian Moffett and Helen Massy-Beresford)

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