Europe agrees to keep phone data

Plans to force telecoms firms to store mobile phone and Internet data for at least six months in a bid to fight terrorism were backed by MEP’s yesterday.

The Bill, championed by the Home Secretary Charles Clarke, will lead to new laws in Britain and the EU’s other 24 states, probably next year.

Mr Clarke argued the information could be crucial in police investigations of terrorism and also organised crime, such a drug trafficking or people smuggling.

He stressed the importance such records played in investigating the London and Madrid bombings.

Firms will be required to store:

• Which numbers were dialled

• The time and duration of calls

• The location of the caller

• The location of the phone dialled

• Details of calls that connect but are unanswered

Companies will also have to keep similar records about text messages. Internet service providers will be required to store details of when and where users log on and log off the Web. Individual governments will have the flexibility to decide how long information should be held from six to 24 months.

There are privacy concerns, however, and the telecoms industry has questioned the data storage costs.

It will be up to governments to decide whether to reimburse firms. The Home Office has earmarked £6million a year to fund the project.

One unnamed major mobile phone company in retain has signed an £875,000-a-year deal to keep the details for 12 months.

The European Parliament voted 387-204m, with 29 abstentions.

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