Justice ministry looking for ways to use communications data

Smartphone. Source: ERR

The Ministry of Justice is looking for a solution for using mobile communications calls and location data to investigate crime without violating people's privacy. Draft legislation is expected this summer.

Representatives of various law enforcement organs met at the Ministry of Justice earlier in the week to discuss future criteria for storing and using mobile calls and location data, "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported.

The need for changes arose a few weeks ago when the Supreme Court decided that the state can no longer access mobile communications service providers' data in criminal proceedings as Estonia's blanket data preservation and use regulations are contrary to EU law.

Communications data will become usable again once the law has been taken into accordance with EU regulations.

"Minimally, we need to ensure access to data that service providers have stored independently from the records obligation, with a court permit if necessary. It is critical. Secondly, to agree on some kind of a new recordkeeping obligation in the Electronic Communications Act," said Markus Kärner, the ministry's deputy secretary general for criminal policy.

Kärner said that more than a few EU countries have considered which recordkeeping obligations would help solve crime.

They could be regional where data is only collected from ports, border stations or airports, or tied to persons with prior criminal punishments.

He added that it is difficult to forecast who might commit crimes and what to do when the investigation needs to start with the victim in terms of their location and contacts.

"At the end of the day, it will be up to the detective and prosecutor to look victims' parents in the eye and tell them that, unfortunately, we cannot triangulate the position of your missing child's phone. They are gone because we do not keep those records and the data doesn't exist," Kärner said.

The undersecretary added that it is difficult to lay down principles for data storage that would discriminate against no one while still helping solve crime. He added that finding a balance between inviolability of private life and solving crime is important in putting together the bill.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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