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Czech Constitutional Court overturns parts of data retention law

The Czech Republic's Constitutional Court [official website, in Czech] on Thursday overturned [press release, in Czech] parts of a controversial data retention law that obligated telecommunications companies to maintain records of their customers' internet and telephone usage. The court found that paragraphs 3 and 4 of § 97 of the Electronic Communications Act [official materials], which compelled telecommunications companies to keep records of their customers' calls, faxes, text messages, internet activity, and emails for up to 12 months, are unconstitutional [text, PDF, in Czech]. The Czech law stems from a European Union directive [text, PDF] requiring member states to gather telecommunications data in an effort to combat terrorism and organized crime. The retained data at issue was not the actual content of the communications [CNA report], but rather information showing when and with whom people were communicating.

The balancing of telecommunications monitoring for security purposes and privacy concerns has been a struggle post 9/11 in both Europe and the US. Last year, Germany's Federal Constitutional Court overturned a law [JURIST report] that required telecommunications providers to store information on telephone calls, e-mails, and Internet use for six months for use in possible terrorism investigations, citing privacy issues. In January 2010, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official websites] are not required to confirm or deny the existence of electronic surveillance records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text]. In April 2009, the DOJ announced that it had limited [JURIST report] the NSA's electronic surveillance, but maintained that the information being received was still important. In 2006, it was revealed that the NSA was collecting phone records [JURIST report] was from major telephone companies to study the calling patterns of millions of Americans in an effort to detect terrorist activity.

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