Coalition calls for an end to data retention mandates in the U.S.

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Access has joined a coalition of civil society partners led by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) in a letter [PDF] calling for an end to data retention mandates in the United States.

In the joint letter, we told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that “requiring mass retention of phone records exposes consumers to data breaches, stifles innovation, reduces market competition, and threatens fundamental privacy rights.” The letter specifically advocates for repeal of the FCC regulation 47 C.F.R § 42.6, which currently mandates carriers to retain “toll telephone service” billing records for 18 months. The records must include at minimum “the name, address, and telephone number of the caller, telephone number called, date, time and length of the call.”

Access opposes any and every data retention mandate, without exception. If this regulation is repealed, the U.S. should not pass any legislation or regulation in its place. As we detailed in our recent blog post on U.K. surveillance powers, data retention interferes with fundamental human rights, slows innovation online, and makes users less secure.

Our position is backed by experts in many different fields: law professors and technologists, who penned a letter opposing data retention mandates to the U.S. Senate last fall; the Court of Justice of the European Union, which issued a forceful judgment against blanket data retention; and telecom companies and ISPs in the U.S., E.U., and Australia, among other countries.

The consensus is clear — courts are zeroing in, companies are pushing back, and now civil society is uniting against blanket mandates that put all users at risk. The FCC should exert its authority and repeal this dusty relic — and ensure that nothing comes in its place.