AG Saugmandsgaard Øe on Mass Data Retention: No Clear Victory for Privacy Rights

The opinion of the CJEU Attorney General on mass data retention has been long awaited by anyone interested in privacy rights, and more generally the relationship between states and their citizens during this period of an extended “war on terror”. While some civil rights groups have already claimed victory, on closer look the opinion of the AG is not an unmitigated success for privacy activists: It gives considerable discretion to member states to enact data retention provisions providing they meet the Digital Rights Ireland standard.

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The Essence of Privacy, and Varying Degrees of Intrusion

What is remarkable in the CJEU’s Schrems decision is that a) the Court actually identified the intrusion in question as falling under the notion of the essence of privacy – something the European Court of Human Rights has never done under the privacy provision of ECHR Article 8, and b) the identification of an intrusion as compromising the essence of privacy meant that there was no need for a proportionality assessment under Article 52 (1.2) of the Charter. For these reasons, the Max Schrems judgment is a pathbreaking development, a major contribution to the understanding of the structure and legal effect of fundamental rights under the Charter.

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