Europe’s justice ministers appear to be forming plans to make it easier to access ISPs' data, as part of a series of proposals intended to limit the spread of online radicalising material.
The proposals were revealed when an internal document for discussion at the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Riga (on 29, 30 January) was published on Statewatch.org (PDF). The document has drawn immediate criticism of being a knee-jerk response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
According to the document, the European Commission should “deepen the engagement with internet companies” as “working with the main players in the internet industry is the best way to limit the circulation of terrorist material online".
The document laments that “cross-border information about owners of IP addresses can take very long to obtain”, and says the process must be speeded up – although it does not specify how it plans to do this.
The document also calls for additional powers for Europol to flag up radicalising content. “Europol's Check the Web project could be beefed up to allow for monitoring and analysis of social media communication on the internet,” the document said.
However, opposition voices are already being heard, with Jan Philipp Albrecht, the European Green Party spokesman on Justice, arguing such a move would endanger net security. “These are exactly the tools used by repressive regimes such as China or Bahrain. If an EU member state uses such repressive tools, it’s no better!"
It also wants a speedy implementation of the proposed EU Passenger Name Record (PNR) law, which has already met with resistance in the European Parliament, as it envisages the storing of all data collected by airlines about their passengers including email addresses, phone numbers and credit card details.
According to Albrecht, such blanket data retention is now illegal following a ruling against the Data Retention Directive by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) last year.
EU Council President Donald Tusk is likely to support the document as he has called on European lawmakers to drop their opposition to PNR following the attacks in France.
However, he's yet to persuade Albrecht: “After the very clear judgement by the ECJ last year, which declared blanket mass surveillance measures as incompatible with EU fundamental rights, home affairs ministers have to understand they cannot simply push the old PNR proposal down the Parliament's throat.”
But the leaked document goes even further, saying that “in order to extract maximum value of an EU PNR, the national Passenger Information Units should systematically cross-check their PNR data against Europol's databases.”
Last year, the Council of Ministers, the EU’s lawmaking body, called for a debate into whether ISPs should be able to deliver content over their networks to anonymous internet users, in an attempt to clarify whether due diligence obligations, such as "know your customer" should be imposed on intermediaries. ®