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Is Europe building Big Brother?

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If Digital Rights Ireland, which argues that the laws violate the European Convention on Human Rights, wins, it would set the stage for successful challenges to the rules across Europe.

"The main thing we want to see is our data retention laws repealed," says T.J. McIntyre, a law lecturer at University College Dublin and head of Digital Rights Ireland. Mr. McIntyre says the laws criminalize ordinary citizens.

Online privacy has become a key civil liberty battleground. Face­book and Google are amassing colos­sal amounts of data about users' thoughts, desires, and impulses, which busi­nesses covet and pay handsomely for.

Across Europe, a backlash against the storage of private data is growing. Civil society groups like the European Federation of Journalists have criticized the practice, and in Germany almost 35,000 people, including Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, sued their own government over the issue.

"There is a real problem in Europe today. It is a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, which says that everyone has the right to a private life. That fundamental right has to extend into digital life," says Christian Engström, a member of the European Parliament for Sweden's controversial Pirate Party, elected on a platform of digital rights.

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