Security

Europe’s top court chalks up more strikes against bulk data retention

Comment

Image Credits: r. nial bradshaw (opens in a new window) / Flickr (opens in a new window) under a CC BY 2.0 (opens in a new window) license.

Yet more strikes against general and indiscriminate data retention in the EU: The bloc’s top court has issued a couple of rulings on joined cases today — one related to a German law on telecoms data retention which had been challenged by Deutsche Telekom and ISP SpaceNet; and another finding fault with the French state’s blanket retention of telecoms data which had been challenged after it was used by a financial services regulator in an insider trading case.

“The Court of Justice confirms that EU law precludes the general and indiscriminate retention of traffic and location data, except in the case of a serious threat to national security,” the Court writes in a press release on its judgment on the German case referral — which finds the national data retention law seriously interferes with the fundamental rights of people whose data is retained, confirming its previous case-law.

Adviser to EU’s top court suggests German bulk data retention law isn’t legal

“The general and indiscriminate retention of traffic data by operators providing electronic communications services for a year from the date on which they were recorded is not authorised, as a preventive measure, for the purpose of combating market abuse offences including insider dealing,” the CJEU writes in a second press release, on the French referral.

Its ruling there also upholds existing case law that essentially means EU Member States can’t (or, well, shouldn’t) deploy creative workarounds to (try to) avoid a CJEU declaration that a national law requiring general and indiscriminate retention of telecoms data is invalid under EU law

We have been here before, many times — so the déjà vu is real. But so are EU Member States’ appetites for grabbing and holding data for wide-ranging ‘crime fighting’ purposes despite indiscriminate bulk collection being demonstrably incompatibility with fundamental EU human rights laws. And so the legal challenges and CJEU rulings continue to flow.

Why national courts keep referring questions to the CJEU when there’s ample jurisprudence on the incompatibility of general and indiscriminate data retention with EU law is question — however the underlying strategy (of Member States) looks akin to a war of attrition, with national lawmakers taking each CJEU strike down as an opportunity to regroup and redouble their efforts with a fresh bulk collection law, battering ram style, in the hopes of exploiting cracks in the legal shielding against general retention.

And those cracks may be widening.

Earlier this year the CJEU sharpened its guidance vis-a-vis targeted exceptions — when it said may be permissible for gathering digital evidence in bulk to fight serious crime, such as by targeting places with a high instance of crime or a high volume of visitors (such as airports), or other locations which host critical infrastructure.

Its ruling today on the German referral reiterates a growing list of exceptions where the Court has said bulk data retention legislation may be permissible — in specific contexts and circumstances (e.g., serious threats to national security) — and with appropriate review (e.g., by a court) — and so long as there is some targeting involved (e.g., to a specific geographical location) and/or other limits (e.g., a period of time).

This includes an exception for “the general and indiscriminate retention of IP addresses assigned to the source of an internet connection for a period that is limited in time to what is strictly necessary” — which is a pretty generous allowance, given how much personal data may be traced back to an IP address and how malleable a timeline of strict necessity may be, depending upon the stated purpose.

So the fact national data retention regimes keep failing to land within these boundaries suggests there’s a lot of bad faith lawmaking going on.

In the CJEU’s ruling against the German law, the court objected to it laying down what the press release describes as “a very broad set of traffic and location data” retention requirements — retained for 10 weeks and four weeks respectively — which it warns “may allow very precise conclusions to be drawn concerning the private lives of the persons whose data are retained, such as habits of everyday life, permanent or temporary places of residence, daily or other movements, the activities carried out, the social relationships of those persons and the social environments frequented by them and, in particular, enable a profile of those persons to be established.”

Digital rights advocates are urging the European Commission not to ignore yet another CJEU strike against overbearing data retention — after a leaked paper obtained by the German language blog netzpolitik last year suggested the EU’s executive is toying with several ways forward on data retention which includes, potentially, coming out with a fresh EU data retention law.

The latter would risk being a cynical gambit to kick the can down the road via inviting another round of lengthy CJEU referrals. The last EU Data Retention Directive was brought down by the Court almost a decade ago — aka, the 2014 Digital Rights Ireland decision — and anything proposed by the EU that attempts to legislate for wider data retention that has been allowed for in the bounded and exceptional circumstances the CJEU has said are possible would be set up for future failure.

But perhaps the Commission’s repeat attempts at rebooting EU-US data transfers despite multiple CJEU strike downs since 2015 (see: Safe Harbor, Privacy Shield) are providing it with a template for ignoring the Court’s will on data retention too.

In a statement following the today’s CJEU rulings, MEP Patrick Breyer, of the German Pirate Party, urges the bloc to plot an alternative course, writing: “Today’s judgement describes only the outermost limits of what is legally possible and should not be taken as an instruction manual. I warn the EU Commission not to ignore the lack of effectiveness and the harmful effects of blanket data retention on society by making a new proposal to place 450 million EU citizens under general suspicion! Instead we need to focus on preserving digital traces of suspects quickly and across borders (quick freeze).”

Europe’s top court sharpens guidance on data retention for combating serious crime

More TechCrunch

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

22 hours ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

24 hours ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI

Winston Chi, Butter’s founder and CEO, told TechCrunch that “most parties, including our investors and us, are making money” from the exit.

GrubMarket buys Butter to give its food distribution tech an AI boost

The investor lawsuit is related to Bolt securing a $30 million personal loan to Ryan Breslow, which was later defaulted on.

Bolt founder Ryan Breslow wants to settle an investor lawsuit by returning $37 million worth of shares

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, launched an enterprise version of the prominent social network in 2015. It always seemed like a stretch for a company built on a consumer…

With the end of Workplace, it’s fair to wonder if Meta was ever serious about the enterprise

X, formerly Twitter, turned TweetDeck into X Pro and pushed it behind a paywall. But there is a new column-based social media tool in town, and it’s from Instagram Threads.…

Meta Threads is testing pinned columns on the web, similar to the old TweetDeck