Current and future security threats to European society are no longer easy to define or combat. Criminal organizations are increasingly turning to the Internet to facilitate their illegal activities. Cybercrime is fast-growing and encompasses a wide range of criminal activity (e.g. email scams, identity theft and child pornography) that present real threats to Europe’s citizens.
Cybercrime is the perfect example of an issue that has forced police agencies to rethink the basic tools and skills they need to do their job. Cyber criminals can easily attack a large number of victims without being identified, whereas in the off-line world criminals are typically physically present at the crime scene. Moreover, parts of the Internet that enable criminals to remain anonymous, known as Darknets, are increasingly hosting hidden services and marketplaces devoted to traditional types of organised crime, such as the drug trade, selling stolen goods, weapons dealing, compromised credit card details, forged documents, fake IDs, and the trafficking of human beings.
To harmonize EU investigation and prosecution of the most serious crimes such as, organized crime and terrorism, the Data Retention Directive was adopted in 2006. However, in April 2014, the EU Court of Justice declared the Data Retention Directive invalid because the scope of the surveillance it allowed included all individuals, which went beyond the bounds of proportionality. At the same time, the Court also acknowledged that ensuring public security may depend to a great extent on the use of modern investigative technologies and considered that data retention serves, under clear and precise conditions, a legitimate and general interest, namely the fight against serious crime and the protection of public security.
In order to combat serious crimes and to protect citizens from online criminal activity, police officers rely on the ability to detect and investigate the traces resulting from any electronic communications related to crime. Without a clear framework of harmonized rules on data retention in the EU, it becomes increasingly difficult to uncover criminal activity in online networks and the patchwork of different rules hampers cross-border police cooperation in the EU.
EuroCOP has therefore made the following recommendations to policymakers:
- In the context of current and future security threats and to ensure a coherent and coordinated EU approach, EuroCOP calls on the European Commission to review the Data Retention Directive.
- When reviewing the Data Retention Directive or considering a new proposal, EuroCOP calls on the Commission to take into account all interests involved in order to ensure fundamental rights are protected and citizens remain secure. EuroCOP therefore looks forward to participating in a consultation process where stakeholders can cooperate to find solutions that serve these goals.
- For police officers to do their job, it is important to have clear regulations that stipulate under what circumstances stored data information can be requested. In order to enhance cross border police cooperation in the EU, it is also critical to implement an EU approach to data retention in order to avoid different national requirements which create uncertainty and hamper cooperation.