Court of Justice of the European Union
Luxembourg, 8 April 2014

Press and Information

Judgment in Joined Cases C-293/12 and C-594/12
Digital Rights Ireland and Seitlinger and Others

The Court of Justice declares the Data Retention Directive to be invalid
It entails a wide-ranging and particularly serious interference with the fundamental rights to respect
for private life and to the protection of personal data, without that interference being limited to what
is strictly necessary
The main objective of the Data Retention Directive1 is to harmonise Member States’ provisions
concerning the retention of certain data which are generated or processed by providers of publicly
available electronic communications services or of public communications networks. It therefore
seeks to ensure that the data are available for the purpose of the prevention, investigation,
detection and prosecution of serious crime, such as, in particular, organised crime and terrorism.
Thus, the directive provides that the abovementioned providers must retain traffic and location data
as well as related data necessary to identify the subscriber or user. By contrast, it does not permit
the retention of the content of the communication or of information consulted.
The High Court (Ireland) and the Verfassungsgerichtshof (Constitutional Court, Austria) are asking
the Court of Justice to examine the validity of the directive, in particular in the light of two
fundamental rights under the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, namely the fundamental
right to respect for private life and the fundamental right to the protection of personal data.
The High Court must resolve a dispute between the Irish company Digital Rights Ireland and the
Irish authorities regarding the legality of national measures concerning the retention of data relating
to electronic communications. The Verfassungsgerichtshof has before it several constitutional
actions brought by the Kärntner Landesregierung (Government of the Province of Carinthia) and by
Mr Seitlinger, Mr Tschohl and 11 128 other applicants. Those actions seek the annulment of the
national provision which transposes the directive into Austrian law.
By today’s judgment, the Court declares the directive invalid2.
The Court observes first of all that the data to be retained make it possible, in particular, (1) to
know the identity of the person with whom a subscriber or registered user has communicated and
by what means, (2) to identify the time of the communication as well as the place from which that
communication took place and (3) to know the frequency of the communications of the subscriber
or registered user with certain persons during a given period. Those data, taken as a whole, may
provide very precise information on the private lives of the persons whose data are retained, such
as the habits of everyday life, permanent or temporary places of residence, daily or other
movements, activities carried out, social relationships and the social environments frequented.
The Court takes the view that, by requiring the retention of those data and by allowing the
competent national authorities to access those data, the directive interferes in a particularly
serious manner with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection
of personal data. Furthermore, the fact that data are retained and subsequently used without the

Directive 2006/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 on the retention of data
generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of
public communications networks and amending Directive 2002/58/EC (OJ 2006 L 105, p. 54).
Given that the Court has not limited the temporal effect of its judgment, the declaration of invalidity takes effect from the
date on which the directive entered into force.

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