DATA PROTECTION | The ECJ on access to telephone records in criminal investigations

On 30 April 2024, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) issued a judgment in case C-178/2022 (Procura della Repubblica presso il Tribunale di Bolzano) clarifying the responsibility for defining the concept of a “serious offence” within the context of Article 15(1) of the Directive on privacy and electronic communications. Under Italian law, in cases involving the aggravated theft of mobile phones, the Public Prosecutor has the authority to request the Italian court to obtain the telephone records from all telecommunication operators to identify the perpetrators of the crime. The ECJ ruling confirms that access to telephone records could have a significant impact on the fundamental data protection rights of individuals. Therefore, such access should be granted only in cases where a serious crime has been committed. According to the ECJ, the definition of what constitutes a “serious offence” should be drafted by the Member State(s). However, the court responsible for authorising access must have the authority to deny such access if it determines that the alleged offence does not meet the criteria of a serious crime within the social context of the Member State.

Newsletter n. 96 – May 2024