Net trade group protests French data retention rules

A group representing Google, Facebook, and others doing business in France is taking its case to court over regulations that require the companies to keep user data for a year.

A trade group that represents Google, Facebook, and other Internet companies active in France is upset over French regulations that require the companies to retain personal data on their users for a full year.

The French group Association of Internet Community Services (Google Translate version) is taking its case to France's Conseil d'Etat, or State Council, on behalf of several Internet companies, which also include eBay and online video site Dailymotion. Launching its appeal with the State Council, which is considered the Supreme Court in France in charge of public law litigation, ASIC is looking to have the decree struck down.

Established in early March, the decree is directed toward e-commerce sites, video and music services, and providers of Webmail. It requires such companies to store names, addresses, phone numbers, and even passwords of their users for one year. The rationale behind the rules is that such data must be made available to law enforcement and various government agencies in the event of an investigation.

In an e-mail to CNET, Benoit Tabaka, the head of ASIC, explained the concerns behind the decree.

The European Commission has so far not been consulted on or involved in discussions about the decree, which Tabaka believes is mandatory and necessary.

"Our companies are based in several European countries," Tabaka said. "Our activities target many national markets. So it's clear that we need a common approach."

The decree also opens up privacy concerns as it requires online companies to retain user passwords, which Tabaka doesn't see as the type of data that would even be needed as identification in a police matter. Further, a breach of security in any system would expose those passwords. Storing the passwords themselves could also be tricky, he explained, since they would need to be saved in a full, clear manner to be usable, but the companies don't currently store passwords in full.

Tabaka said that the legal challenge against the decree will be launched before the end of the week. He expects a response from the State Council at the beginning of next year.

As a trade group, ASIC works on behalf of the interests of its Web 2.0 member companies as they do business in France. The group was created in late 2007 by AOL, Dailymotion, Google, and Yahoo.

 

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