Seanad debates

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Communications (Retention of Data) Bill 2009: Committee and Remaining Stages


11:00 am

Photo of Ivana BacikIvana Bacik (Independent)

We all wonder how long the Government will last and whether this may be the last piece of legislation to go through all Stages, as appears likely today.

Regarding amendments Nos. 1 and 2 which are to be dealt with together, a number of Senators dealt fully with these issues on Second Stage in April 2010 which seems like a long time ago. At that point I indicated my party colleagues would seek to make the same amendments in the Dáil. The Minister of State will be familiar with the argument which concerns the length of time for which data should be retained. We have argued that Ireland should not take a maximalist approach, namely, seeking to adopt the maximum period of two years for retention of telephone data and one year for Internet data. We believe this will hamper business and on this point we have a great deal of support from a range of different organisations. The Data Protection Commissioner recommended as sufficient a one year retention period for telephone traffic data and a six month period for Internet data. The commissioner pointed out in his report that the Garda Síochána rarely requests data that is more than one year old and that a two year retention period seems unnecessarily and unduly onerous. The Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland was in touch with my party on Second Stage and I heard again from the organisation this week. It pointed out, as it has done to the Minister for Justice and Law Reform, Deputy Ahern, and his Department, that a one year retention period for Internet data is too long and that we should opt instead for a six month retention period as have countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Luxembourg and Lithuania. The association argued, persuasively in my view, that the extra costs and resources required to meet the one year requirement for Internet data will put many Irish Internet service providers at a distinct disadvantage. At a time when we are trying to ensure we do not put any obstacles in the way of business, and when Internet and IT companies are doing well in Ireland, we must facilitate them and listen to their concerns.

I shall not dwell further on the point because the arguments have been well rehearsed but I ask the Minister of State to reconsider at this final stage the time period for retention. The Minister of State comes to this matter with a fresh eye. A former Minister, Michael McDowell, stated originally he would use the maximum periods allowed under the directive. That was in a very different economic and political climate and it is time to reconsider the retention periods.


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