A new bill would require service providers in Ireland to retain logs of their customers' activities for up to four years, according to The Irish Times.
The information recorded would include that of the usual pen-register variety - telephone numbers dialed, websites visited, and email headers. But it could also include data on a person's physical location moment-by-moment, as broadcast by certain 3G mobile phones commonly carried in Europe. Even the most law-abiding citizens would have this information recorded and retained.
It is still unclear under what circumstances the information could be turned over to law enforcement bodies. We reported earlier this month that a much bolder U.S. program called Total Information Awareness (TIA) would provide all personal communications directly to the government for analysis, although no official attempts have yet been made to introduce the TIA regime.
Clearly, both the Irish and American plans are after the same goal - taking privacy away from the populus, in the service of some greater security which was never even requested by the populus in the first place.
Both plans violate current statutes designed to quell abuse of personal information. Ireland's proposed data-retention measure would apparently be in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. But like many others, these EU laws can be overridden in times of public emergency. Under the supposedly continuous threat of terrorism, EU member states are unlikely to protest anti-privacy laws enacted in Ireland or elsewhere.
Fortunately in Ireland, as in the U.S., strong public response to these proposals has come quickly. "We have serious concerns that this is treating everybody as a potential suspect in a crime," said an official from the Irish Council on Civil Liberties.
Before introducing the bill, Ireland's Department of Justice consulted Garda Síochána, the Irish national police force - but it seems that no other groups were allowed involvement in the legislation.