Ops falling behind in data retention moves

Many European telecoms operators are in danger of flagging behind in the meeting of requirements set down in the controversial Data Retention Directive (DRD), originally intended to come into play this month.

The directive, which has effectively been law since February 2006, requires service providers to store call records and ‘event logs’ for a period of not less than six months and not longer than two years.

Although event logs do not contain the content of a conversation or a website visit, they are the fingerprints of the internet. If needed these tracks can be used to identify the name and exact location of a caller or web surfer. And in what sounds very much like something from America’s Homeland Security department, that information will be made available for the purpose of investigation, detection and prosecution of serious crime.

The EU also plans to expand this initiative to include internet data, a measure due to come into force by March 15, 2009.

But the problem is not just the massive financial burden placed upon companies required to comply with the storing of and access to the data in question, but also with the definition of those companies.

Already, MNVOs are running into trouble, because they are required to produce equally sufficient data records as traditional MNOs but do not have the same access to the complete network and IT systems that are required.

A number of analysts and lawyers has spoken to on the subject, have also expressed concern that the DRD requirements could even extend to a coffee shop providing wireless access on the premises.

“Whether we like it or not, our movements online are going to be tracked,” Patrick Van Eecke, internet attorney for law firm, DLA Piper, told previously. “Content may not be a target at present, but it will be in the future for sure,” he added, saying that he also believes the length of time a company is required to store data is likely to be lengthened.

Indeed, governments and authorities in Asia, North America and South America are also understood to have made enquires over the implementation of similar legislation but in these cases, a five year retention term is commonly bandied around.

Olivier Suard, marketing director at OSS (Operations Support Systems) vendor, Comptel, said the EU directive “is very problematic and costly to implement from an operators’ point of view, especially when considering for example the wide variety of sources of data and volumes involved.

“So far, telecoms operators have had to absorb the cost of retaining this data themselves, as the directive in no way obliges governments to help fund the extra expense.”

But Tony Wilson, operations director at billing provider Martin Dawes Systems, is more upbeat: “This new legislation will provide some key challenges to the industry, however with the right systems and infrastructure in place it is more than achievable. Operators should already have most of the tools in place to adhere to these regulations, having used them for a variety of functions ranging from bill reconciliation to fraud management. The importance of robust systems that allow accurate call and usage records to be produced has never been higher and it is only going to become more important in the future.”

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