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Last Updated: Monday, 11 July, 2005, 13:21 GMT 14:21 UK
UK urging e-mail data retention
Home Secretary Charles Clarke
Clarke: Wants details retained
Home Secretary Charles Clarke says firms across Europe should be ordered to retain phone and e-mail records to help track down terrorists.

A meeting of the EU justice and home affairs council, called by Mr Clarke in the wake of the London bombings, will discuss the plan on Wednesday.

EU security commissioner Franco Frattini told the BBC he believed there should be Europe-wide measures.

But he believed firms should only have to retain details for a limited time.

Mr Frattini told BBC Radio 4's Today: "We should guarantee the full traceability of the movements of terrorists through the stage of phone calls, including unsuccessful phone calls, but of course for the appropriate period of time.

"I think, for example, a period of six months for internet data and about 12 months for phone calls.

"I mean a European standard, because in some member states there are no data retention rules and no data retention possibility at all, and that is a great advantage for terrorists."

'Home-grown'

At the meeting Mr Clarke will present his European counterparts with a 10-point plan including proposing that records of all private telephone calls, text messages and e-mails be retained by telecommunications firms so they can be passed on to the police and security services if necessary.

"Telecommunications records, whether of telephones or of e-mails, which record what calls were made from what number to another number at what time are of very important use for intelligence," he said.

"I am not talking about the content of any call but the fact that a call was made. And we believe it is important to get a retention of data of what calls were made from some considerable time.

"This is an issue of international agreement and that is what I will be discussing with my European colleagues in Brussels on Wednesday."

Voluntary code

Labour MEP Claude Moraes, who sits on the European Parliament's civil liberties committee, objected to the plans on the grounds of cost.

"You're talking about millions and millions of e-mails and telephone calls and so on. So even medium size internet providers or phone operators would find this quite crushing," he told BBC news.

A Home Office spokeswoman said that at the moment the UK has a voluntary code of practice which sees communication companies retaining details about, but not the content, of phone calls, e-mails and text messages.

She said Mr Clarke's aim was for the whole of the European Union to adopt similar measures.


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