The Belgian government passes a new law on data storage

On Thursday night, the Belgian parliament’s plenary session approved a new law on data retention. To assist law enforcement and security, telecommunications and internet service providers must retain user data, including location and traffic.

The decision is contentious because the EU Court of Justice already determined that the widespread retention of phone and location data violates the right to privacy protected by the EU’s Charter for Human Rights.

However, law enforcement and Belgian government representatives assert that it is crucial to identify and eliminate crime, which has led them to look for gaps in the decisions made by the EU Court.

The Belgian government passes a new law on data storage

Concern for privacy

Targeted data retention may be permitted in particular situations and in cases of dangers to national security, even though the EU Court ruled that the general keeping of population data is unlawful.

The Belgian data retention law professes to be targeted. Still, in reality, it permits broad data surveillance because the bill’s definition of crime is so broad that it inadvertently covers the entire nation.

The government also intends to include telecommunications companies and messaging apps like WhatsApp and Signal in its proposal. The plan may impact privacy-focused apps like Signal and Telegram because it would make them keep user data longer than they already do. Privacy activists caution that the law might forbid such apps.

The text was adopted with support from the majority of parties, according to Flemish Liberal Minister of Justice Vincent Van Quickenborne. He asserted that the government’s strategy guarantees the protection of privacy.

Only the far-left PVDA and the far-right N-VA opposed the motion; the far-right Vlaams Belang chose to abstain.

Digital rights organizations warned that European governments might follow Belgium’s lead.

The Belgian government passes a new law on data storage