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Details of all internet traffic should be logged, MEP says

An Italian politician has called for details of internet users' online activity to be recorded in order to better identify paedophiles and sexual predators.27 Oct 2011

Tiziano Motti MEP wants users' "traffic data", rather than the specific content of online communications, to be logged under expanded EU laws on data storage, according to a statement from the European People's Party (EPP) at the European Parliament.

"[Motti wants to] extend [the EU's Data Retention Directive] to content providers (social networks etc) in order to identify more easily those who commit crimes, including paedophilia through sexual harassment on the Net," the EPP said in a statement.

"This is a request which does not regard specifically the online content, which falls under the Regulation of wiretapping, but to the traffic data developed by the person uploading material of any kind on the net: comments, pictures, videos," it said.

The Data Retention Directive was established in 2006 to make it a requirement for telecoms companies to retain personal data for a period determined by national governments of between six months and two years. The Commission decided to regulate following terrorist attacks in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005.

Under the Directive telecoms firms are required to retain identifying details of phone calls and emails, such as the traffic and location, to help the police detect and investigate serious crimes. The details exclude the content of those communications.

Motti's proposals, developed with the help of Italian computer expert Fabio Ghioni, would involve the data being stored in an internet 'black box' enabling the "truth of what happened on the web" to be recorded, according to an automated translation of a report on Ghioni's website.

Ghioni's 'Logbox' system would involve encrypting the traffic data and giving the 'key' to access it to individual users, an "authority" and a lawyer, according to an automated translation of a report by Italian Christian magazine, Famiglia Cristiana.

Ghioni said his "precise mechanism" would need the "collaboration" of operating system manufacturers such as Microsoft and Apple to log all activities on their systems, according to the automated translation of the report. That data would be "digitally signed in order to be traced to a specific computer and its user", allowing paedophiles to be identified "regardless of any trick to anonymise any illegal activity", and be "extremely low" cost to operate, Ghioni said, according to the automated translation of the report.

Motti believes that establishing a system for storing "traffic data" would make it possible to enforce suggestions he previously made regarding data retention laws last year, according to the EPP.

In June 2010 the European Parliament backed proposals outlined in a 'written declaration' by Motti and fellow MEP Anna Záborská to set up a system to act as an 'early warning' system to identify paedophiles and other sex offenders. A written declaration has no legislative effect on its own, but is formally communicated by the Parliament to the European Commission in a bid to influence its policy if adopted.

The adopted declaration also called for the scope of the Directive to cover "data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks" and be extended "to search engines in order to tackle online child pornography and sex offending rapidly and effectively".

In April this year the European Commission said it would update the Data Retention Directive after conceding that it does not always adequately protect privacy or personal data.

The Commission was responding to a critical report that it had commissioned to provide feedback on the impact the Directive was having on businesses and consumers, and how it was being implemented in EU countries.

At the time the Commission said that it would consider strengthening regulations of the storage, access to and use of retained data to improve the protection of personal data.

In May UK Justice Secretary Ken Clarke said that the Commission's plans to revise the Directive should be viewed "with caution" after he listed examples of how stored communications data had been used to thwart terrorism and serious crime during a speech at the British Chamber of Commerce in Brussels.