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Washington Journal of Law, Technology & Arts

Abstract

The European Union’s Data Retention Directive (the “Directive”) seeks to assist law enforcement officials in their efforts to combat terrorism and to standardize disparate laws regarding data retention within the European Union (EU). The Directive requires companies to retain traffic and location data that identifies a subscriber or registered user of a Web site for a period of six to twenty-four months. Implementation of the Directive takes place at the national level and poses many challenges to providers of electronic communication services. There is no analogous United States federal law mandating data retention. The United States, however, has a data preservation requirement, which pertains only to specific information requested by the United States government. This Article compares the two distinct approaches and examines which approach better balances the interests of law enforcement officials combating terrorism, and the cost to companies and consumers to comply with the laws. This Article concludes that the United States’s current legal framework of data preservation strikes a more favorable balance between these competing interests.

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