Telecoms industry surprisingly defensive on data retention

Karlin Lillington had an excellent piece in the Times on 25 September reporting on a private/confidential/secret (the correct adjective appears to be open to debate) deal between the State and the telecommunications industry in Ireland to supplement the law and proposed laws on data retention.

My contribution on the issue was published in the letters page on Friday (2 October), along with that of the industry. Karlin has a response on her blog:

“The fact is that no one I can find across the spectrum of those concerned about data retention — which include politicians, leading business figures, lawyers, and privacy advocates — knew they were off privately drawing up a memorandum figuring out how they would interpret a law and agreeing various provisions with the very people who can come demand our data from the operators. This job of interpretation, as I argued in my column, is normally the task of the legislature and the courts in democracies, and one might think on such a critical issue, should involve privacy advocates and some public input, something the telecoms industry has regularly called for when it has benefited them to do so (as some of the names on their letter know full well), but seemingly not at this critical juncture. I can only conclude that they only want ‘open’ discussion when they feel their input has been excluded, but that they don’t really want customers and businesses to know that they are now amongst the consultative closed circle.”

Her post includes some good onward links on the issue that are worth checking out. It’s also worth checking out Digital Rights Ireland’s posts.

What surprises me is the defensiveness of the industry. Originally, the industry was not receptive to the idea of data retention at all, as it saddles them with an extra financial and regulatory burden. Now, it would seem, they are cheerleaders for the Irish data retention regime and are first out of the blocks to defend it from criticism.