Data Retention in the EU


I don’t often write about data protection, as it’s at the periphery of what I do. But two things prompted me to do so: First, there’s a new Banksy mural in Cheltenham that depicts spying. Second, the Grand Chamber of the CJEU has deemed invalid the EU Directive on the retention of data arising from the provision of publicly available electronic communication services or public communications networks. These two acts have more in common than you might imagine.

Banksy, for those of you unfamiliar with the famously secretive street artist, enjoys poking fun at the Establishment.

His latest work can be found on the side of a house not far from the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), which is the UK Government’s ‘listening post’, our equivalent of Langley for the CIA in the U.S. The mural depicts three men in ‘spook’ attire: trench coats and homburgs in two cases, with the third man kneeling, wearing headphones and with old-fashion tape-reel recording equipment by his side. All three are grouped around a public telephone box, and in a final clever turn, Banksy has incorporated the house’s television satellite dish into the image, suggesting how the spooks are sending back the information.

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