European Parliament Wants Comprehensive Traffic Logging

Stephen Yagielowicz

LOS ANGELES — Critics of intrusive online surveillance efforts are aghast at the latest comprehensive traffic-logging measures being proposed by European lawmakers.

Italian MEP and EPP Group member Tiziano Motti is seeking to extend the EU’s Data Retention Directive to cover Internet content providers, such as social networks and other online destinations, encompassing “data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks,” including “search engines, in order to tackle online child pornography and sex offending rapidly and effectively.”

With 264 members, the European People’s Party (EPP) is the largest political group within the European Parliament.

According to Wikipedia, the Data Retention Directive is known more formally as “Directive 2006/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 on the retention of data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks and amending Directive 2002/58/EC,” which requires member states to store its citizens’ telecommunications data for six-to-24 months, during which time police or other security agencies will be able to access details such as the IP address and access time of each and every email, phone call and text message sent or received.

The proposed measures would mandate the use of an Internet “black box” to record “the truth of what happened on the web” — providing historical evidence of all activity in much the same way as the automated systems used to reconstruct aircraft accidents.

Known as “Logbox,” the system reportedly does not monitor specific online content, as that falls under wiretapping regulations, but instead analyzes the traffic data developed “by the person uploading material of any kind on the net: comments, pictures, videos.”

Motti developed his proposal in cooperation with computer expert Fabio Ghioni, who conceived Logbox as a system for encrypting traffic data, with keys reportedly provided to the user, the authorities and to attorneys, as needed.

Ghioni’s system requires operating system manufacturers including Apple and Microsoft to monitor, log and report all activities on their systems, with digital signatures enabling content to be traced to a specific computer and its users, despite steps taken to conceal illegal activity.

Predictably, the surveillance move is publicly packaged as being for the protection of children, against predators, pedophiles and sexual harassment on the Internet, which Ghioni characterizes as “the greatest challenge of our time.”

“From the Convention on the Rights of the Child to the era of Web 2.0, democratic societies have always sought to protect children and their rights,” Ghioni stated. “Today, however, with the mighty development and rampant supremacy of multimedia in this so-called technological age the new challenge is the fight against online child pornography.”

The European Commission is seeking to update its Data Retention Directive after finding weaknesses in its personal privacy and data protection regimens — although the use of Logbox may not help these issues. The final text of the Directive is pending.