Europe mulls search-term surveillance

Europe wants to monitor what you search for on the Internet. Under the misleading guise of protecting children against sexual abuse (sigh) Written Declaration 29 calls for the Data Retention Directive to be extended to cover search engines. This would force national Governments to record everything you type into Google, Bing, Yahoo! et al and store that information for years.

Your search terms are highly sensitive and very private. They are also uniquely identifiable. Examining what you search for can reveal deeply personal facts about you, such as your online reading habits, medical history, finances, sexual preferences and political affiliations.

A database of search terms, linked to subscriber accounts, would be a clear violation of the privacy rights of everyone who uses the Internet in Europe.

I’ve written to my MEPs urging them not to sign Written Declaration 29 and to withdraw their signature if they have already signed. You should do the same – it takes two minutes through

Here’s my letter (but, as always, please use your own words for maximum effect).

Dear Timothy Kirkhope, Edward McMillan-Scott, Andrew Brons, Godfrey Bloom, Diana Wallis and Linda McAvan,

Written declaration 29 [pdf] calls on the European Commission to extend the data retention directive (2006/24/EC) to Internet search-engines. If this were to happen all private searches done on Google et al would be monitored. I feel this would be an intolerable violation of article 8 ECHR privacy rights.

Written declaration 29 is being marketed within the European Parliament by using an emotionally-loaded picture of a child and talking about the need to set up an ”early warning system” to combat child abuse. Laudable though that aim is, as a technical expert it’s my opinion that these measures cannot achieve it, and the marketing is therefore misleading. Some MEPs have already said they feel they have been misled into signing the declaration because of the way in which it was presented to them.

If the declaration is adopted the names of the signatories will be made public.

If you have signed written declaration 29 and feel you have been misled I urge you to withdraw your signature.

Christian Engström MEP has published more information on his website.