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Who’s reading your email ? ( part II )

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More from the Irish Council of Civil Liberties.

Dear G,

Please find below information on the current law in Ireland regarding the interception and retention of mobile phone records and emails.  The ICCL will publish a report on Privacy in Ireland before the end of the year and if you would like to receive a copy of the report, please let us know and we can email/or post a copy accordingly.


The Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act 1993 provides the legal basis in Ireland for the authorised interception of post and wiretaps.  The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform may authorise an interception for the purpose of criminal investigation concerning a serious offence.  It is necessary that more conventional methods of investigation have failed or are likely to fail and that the interception would be of material assistance.  Warrants for interception may also be executed where a serious offence has been apprehended but has yet to be carried out. The warrant authorising the interception remains valid for a period of 3 months; however, this may be extended by the Minister for a further period of 3 months.

This legislation does not cover many aspects of current communications life such as mobile phone location information and the interception of emails.


Part VII of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act 2005 sets out the legal basis for the retention of telecommunications data in Ireland.  The legislation is concerned with the retention of records relating to the transmission of fixed line and mobile communications.  It covers both call logs and location information; however, it does not apply to the content of the communications.  Under the Act, the Garda Commissioner can ask a service provider to retain phone records for 3 years for the purpose of the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of crime that includes but is not limited to terrorist offences and safeguarding the security of the State.  A designated High Court judge will be appointed to review the operation of the 2005 Act and to determine whether the Gardaí and the Defence Forces are complying with the provisions.  The judge has the power to investigate any case in which disclosure is made and to inspect any official documents or records relating to the request.

The implementation of the EU Data Retention Directive will allow for the storage of internet information also.  ISPs will be required to record the date and time that users connect and disconnect as well as the IP address allocated to individual users (as well as other information).  The Directive provides that the information be retained for 24 months so the Irish 2005 Act would have to be amended.  However, the Irish government are currently challenging the Directive in the European Court of Justice as they believe that proper procedures were not used in passing the Directive into law.  At the same time, an Irish civil rights group, Digital Rights Ireland (with the Irish Human Rights Commission as a party to the case – a procedure that’s called amicus curiae) has also taken a case in the Irish courts on the basis that the European Data Retention Directive breaches fundamental human rights including, the right to privacy.  More information can be found about this case and the Irish government’s case at the website of Digital Rights Ireland at http://www.digitalrights.ie/.

In relation to your question about specialised computers installed in ISPs, I am not aware of this practice; however, I suggest that you contact Digital Rights Ireland as they are more familiar with technical issues.  However, we would be happy to answer any more questions you may have.

Joanne Garvey


Irish Council for Civil Liberties

9 – 13 Blackhall Place

Dublin 7

Phone: 01 7994504

Fax: 01 7994512

email: joanne.garvey@iccl.ie / info@iccl.ie


Written by ferdia2010

October 21, 2008 at 9:18 pm

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