Data Retention in Belgium: coming soon?
Today, the BIPT (Belgian Institute for Postal Services and Telecommunication) released a draft of the implementation of the EU directive regarding data retention in Belgian Law at the request of the minster for Enterprising and Simplification (dunno how else to translate 'minister voor Ondernemen en Vereenvoudigen') (downloadable in Dutch and French). It seems the idea is to introduce some form of public scrutiny (instead of just making the law and be done with it), so that people can comment on it. I'm of course completely pessimistic about real chances of influencing it for the better, but one never knows.
Even though that text seems to have some very minor redeeming parts on the surface, when I read it, I wasn't happy. Seems like they want ISPs and other services providers (email, webmail, VoIP, etc) to keep a lot of information, for the maximum extent permissible by the directive (that is, 2 years). Of course, no modern law would be complete without having a clause in it that makes it permissible to extend that term indefinitely in case of 'extraordinary circumstances'. Sigh.
I can't make too much comments on it since I'm just a computer scientist, not a lawyer. It is rather hard for me to grasp the intricate details of some formulations (usually because I interpret terms differently). The fact that part of it changes and references the gigantic (at least for me) telecommunications law, isn't helping much either.
In any case, Belgians that have an interest in law and data retention might find the text an interesting (if not happy) read.
There is a way: Polippix
We already have data retention in Denmark, in effect since September 15 2007.
However IT-Political Association of Denmark, a small grassroots organization, made a live cd called Polippix that you can use to surf anonymously on the internet, do anonymous phonecalls and more.
It was sent out with the member-magazine of an IT-professionals labor union, a print of 12.000 CDs. After that the press discovered it and there was much debate since it could circumvent the idea of data retention. The argument of IT-Political Association of Denmark was that these were tools already available on the internet. This just made it easily available to the regular danish citizen. It was downloaded by more than 25.000 Danes!
Recently (at FOSDEM) there was launched an international version of Polippix. And very recently the political texts on the CD has been translated to various languages and are now available in English, German, French(partly) and of course Danish.
I can only suggest that someone in Belgium get involved in the project and help out with the translations (and new development?) of the project. This is heading to become a pan-european initiative.
Please visit www.polippix.org where you can also download the latest CD image.