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Belgium court rules metadata retention law unconsitutional

[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of Belgium [official website] on Thursday ruled [judgment, PDF, in French] that a law requiring Internet service providers and telecommunications operators to retain customer metadata for possible future police investigations violates fundamental privacy rights and is therefore unconstitutional. Specifically the law required these organizations to store customer metadata [IDG report] such as phone call logs and Internet data for one year so that law enforcement could use the data for investigating serious crimes and terrorism. The law was enacted in 2013 as part of the EU Data Retention Directive [official website], which was invalidated [JURIST report] last year. The lawsuit was brought by the League of Human Rights [official website] and the Order of French-speaking and German-speaking Lawyers nearly immediately after the law was introduced.

Government surveillance policies around the world have been hotly debated recently. Earlier this month the US Senate approved the USA Freedom Act, which reduces the federal government's surveillance [JURIST report] of Americans' phone records. In March a Dutch court struck down [JURIST report] its data retention law, holding that it violates privacy rights of EU citizens. Also in March France's government pushed a surveillance bill [JURIST report] that would give French intelligence services the authority to monitor metadata. Such focus on government surveillance policies comes largely as a result of revelations [JURIST backgrounder] by former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden [JURIST news archive], who allegedly leaked classified documents, including PRISM and UPSTREAM, in 2013, exposing the scope and breadth of NSA surveillance activities.

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