AK Vorrat (the German Working Group on Data Retention), has released a study (pdf) of German police statistics that “finds telecommunications data retention ineffective for the prosecution of serious crime.”
The EU data retention directive 2006/24 requires telecommunications companies to store data about all of their customers’ communications in order to facilitate “the investigation, detection and prosecution of serious crime, as defined by each Member State in its national law”. […]
An analysis of Federal Crime Agency (BKA) statistics published today by civil liberties NGO AK Vorrat reveals that data retention, while in force, did not make the prosecution of serious crime any more effective. With data retention in effect, more serious criminal acts (2009: 1,422,968) were registered by police than before (2007: 1,359,102), and a smaller proportion were cleared up (2009: 76.3%) than before the introduction of blanket retention of communications data (2007: 77.6%). Likewise, after the additional retention of Internet data began in 2009, the number of registered Internet offences surged from 167,451 in 2008 to 206,909 in 2009, while the clear-up rate for Internet crime fell (2008: 79.8%, 2009: 75.7%).
According to AK Vorrat, user avoidance behaviour can explain the counterproductive effects of blanket data retention on the investigation of crime. In order to avoid the recording of sensitive information under a blanket data retention scheme, users begin to employ Internet cafés, wireless Internet access points, anonymization services, public telephones, unregistered mobile telephone cards, non-electronic communications channels and such like.
This avoidance behaviour can not only render retained data meaningless but also frustrate more targeted investigation techniques that would otherwise have been available to law enforcement. Overall, blanket data retention can thus be counterproductive to criminal investigations, facilitating some, but rendering many more futile.
As the EU Commission is currently considering changes to the controversial EU data retention directive, a coalition of more than 100 civil liberties, data protection and human rights associations as well as crisis line and emergency call operators, professional associations of journalists, jurists and doctors, trade unions, consumer organisations and industry associations is urging the Commission to “propose the repeal of the EU requirements regarding data retention in favour of a system of expedited preservation and targeted collection of traffic data”. […]
The directive’s critics have recently been joined by the German Minister of Justice Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger who is also advocating shifting the directive to a targeted investigative approach, involving the collection of data on suspect communications only.