The President has recently signed the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011 (the “Act”) into law. We have previously discussed the provision of this Act as it has made its way through the Dáil (see here and here). The Act transposes the Data Retention Directive (the “Directive”) into Irish law and will place increased obligations on internet and telecommunications service providers. Telephone service providers will be required to retain telephone data for two years and internet data will be retained for 12 months.
The Directive has faced significant criticism from civil liberties groups who argue that it infringes the right to privacy and the freedom of expression. The Act will does not require the content of the calls or email to be retained, however the time and date of the communication as well as the location of mobile phones will be stored. Such records have attracted significant media headlines in recent years following their use in a number of high profile cases such as the conviction of Joe O’Reilly for the murder of his wife Rachel. It should be noted that the Act will actually reduce the period of retention for such phone records from three years under the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2003.
The Act contains a number of safeguards, including in relation to access requests and also provides for the appointment of a High Court judge to oversee compliance with the Act by those bodies making requests (such as the Gardaí and the Revenue Commissioners).
The Act will bring Irish law into line with the Directive and other EU countries. It will be interesting to see how the Act operates in practice and whether it will have a significant effect of crime detection and prosecution.