European justice ministers have adopted measures to increase police access to telephone and Internet records, laws deemed essential to fight terrorism and organised crime.
The measures oblige European Union (EU) countries to keep information about the sender, receiver, time, date, place and length of any communications over the phone or through the Internet, but not the content of the message itself.
The project has raised deep concern about privacy rights and who would pay the costs that they would impose on businesses.
For domestic legal reasons, Ireland and Slovakia opposed the plan which was the result of intensive negotiations between EU member states and the European Parliament last year.
Most member states already have laws on retaining telecommunication data, but some, like Germany and Finland, do not and the length of time they are kept range from three months in the Netherlands to four years in Italy.
The plan would now force all EU states to keep such information for between six and 24 months, with members retaining the right to impose longer periods if deemed necessary.
It also leaves them the option of keeping details about calls that did not get through, as requested by Germany, despite the breakthrough made by Spanish police investigating the March 2004 Madrid bombings based on such information.
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