Garda chief asks mobile phone firm to retain web-browsing data

DETAILED INFORMATION on the web pages people view will be retained for possible future criminal investigations if telecommunications operators comply with a letter from the Garda Commissioner.

The request for real-time web-browsing information - the content or the web address (URL) of every web page browsed by users of mobile handsets, palmtop devices or 3G modems - goes beyond the European Union's data retention directive, which the Government intends to implement as a statutory instrument.

Such a measure would cover the content of web-based email. "The directive does not pertain to the retention of content, and this would be very concerning," said Deputy Data Protection Commissioner Gary Davis.

Industry sources confirmed last night that Vodafone - the largest mobile service provider in the State - had received a letter from the Garda Commissioner.

The Irish Times understands that the chief executives of O2 and 3 Ireland have not yet received the letters requesting the subscribers' browsing history to be retained, although the Garda Commissioner is believed to want to make retention of internet data a requirement for all mobile broadband providers.