EU ministers are heading for a showdown with the European Commission over how long data traffic records can be retained, if at all.
Ministers have also failed to agree on how commercial email is distributed.
Ministers yesterday gave the green light to plans that effectively hijack the Commission's proposals on retaining traffic data records, in order to placate enforcement authorities' demands that data traffic records be retained for a number of years.
However, the Commission is fiercely opposed to the position and said today [Thursday] that it would lobby hard to have its original position adopted, that only records needed for billing purposes be retained.
Police say retaining all records is a necessary measure in the fight against cyber-crime, but data protection experts say it is an unacceptable breach of privacy.
The UK's own National Hi-Tech Crime Unit is stretched for resources and admitted this week that it had so far recruited only 27 of its full roster of 43 officers.
In an open letter issued before Wednesday's meeting, the EU Data Protection Working Party said: "Systematic and preventive storage of EU citizens' communications and related traffic data would undermine the fundamental rights to privacy, data protection, freedom of expression, liberty and presumption of innocence."
Separately, the Commission wanted ministers to approve its plan on spam that would require users to sign up to receive commercial email (opt-in) rather than a system whereby users would have to opt-out from future mailings, having already received unsolicited commercial email.
Although some marketing associations have lobbied against the plan, and the UK government reportedly campaigned against it, the Commission said today that a majority of ministers appear to support its favoured opt-in approach.
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