Yesterday the European Parliament debated a controversial resolution that would provide police agencies with an advanced surveillance system to listen tap into Internet, fax and mobile phone communications.
The resolution, dubbed Enfopol 98, aims to develop a pan European wiretapping facility that would enable police operations to combat crime, including drug trafficking, smuggling, pornography and money laundering.
But, privacy advocates are already running "Stop Enfopol" campaigns in Germany to raise public awareness of what they see as a potential threat to citizens' privacy rights.
If Enfopol ever becomes regulatory reality it will require Internet service providers and telecommunications companies to provide a "back door" for the police to eavesdrop on conversations.
A draft resolution of the Enfopol 98 proposal would dictate that the communications companies hand over a subscriber's personal details, such as address and credit card details, as well as providing access to realtime communications.
The European Union is expected to take a vote on Enfopol 98 in the coming days, but if it goes through it will not be immediately binding for EU countries. It will be up to each member country's national constitution to decide how they wish to approach a technical specification for Enfopol 98.
Currently police authorities in Europe have to obtain a court order to be served on a company before they can use their technical infrastructure to tap in on communications. Under Enfopol 98 the police would have ongoing access to communcations without the need for a court order. Anti-Enfopol 98 supporters see it as the nurturing of a 'big brother' system and believe it is far to open ended in its approach.
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