Copyright Maskot

Constitutional court trashes data retention law

Belgium’s constitutional court has made the law on data retention null and void.  The legislation obliged telecom companies to store indiscriminately a wealth of customer data as a preventative measure, but that will now no longer happen.

The constitutional court is following a recommendation from the European Court of Justice. 

Police, examining magistrates and prosecutors are unhappy with the decision.  They say they now lose an important tool in investigations. 

Storing everybody’s information without a specific reason is unconstitutional.  Judges will be allowed to decide whether, in cases that are already underway, they allow this form of evidence. It won’t be possible to use this kind data in future investigations.

The information that the telephone companies will no longer be able to store indiscriminately relates to which number is calling or texting which other number and which number is located near to which mast at which time.

Police say the data was essential in many investigations.  It played a crucial role in locating the last whereabouts of missing persons. Detectives could establish who suspects had been in contact with and who was at the scene of a crime.  The data could also be used to identify people setting off a bomb using a phone signal.

Under the European ruling all data may be kept at times when the national security interest requires this.  Information from targeted individuals too may be stored.

Top stories