From this week details of any emails, VOIP calls and even an individual’s browsing history are to be recorded by internet service providers (ISPs) under a new European Union directive.

Under the new directive, all ISPs in the European Union will have to store records of emails, online voice calls and web browsing for up to twelve months, similar to the way in which telecoms firms are required to hold on to telephone records for the same period.

The data stored will not include the content of any particular message or communication but will be used to determine whether particular individuals, notably terror suspects, have established any form of network communication. Authorities will be able to access this data with a warrant from the courts.

Governments across the EU have written this new directive into their own national legislation although some countries have opposed the ruling.

Germany is currently challenging the ruling through the courts whilst Sweden has ignored the directive completely.

In the UK, the directive will be carried out under the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).

Some ISP’s previously stored such information voluntarily to help them prevent spam and monitor their own networks. From this week, storing such data will be mandatory.

The directive has been widely criticised however, with both privacy groups and ISP’s themselves arguing against the act.

The Open Rights Group branded the directive as a “serious erosion of our fundamental human right to privacy” that was “incompatible” with human rights legislation.

ISP’s have raised concerns over the cost of collating, storing and maintaining such data although the government has since agreed to reimburse ISP’s for these costs.

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