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Telco Data Retention

Data retention [data preservation] in the Telecommunications industry generally refers to the storage of call detail records [CDRs] by governments and commercial organisations of:

  • Telephony
  • Internet traffic
  • Transaction data [IPDRs]

Government Retention

The primary objective in government data retention is traffic analysis and mass surveillance. Government data retention generally involves data of:

  • Telephone calls made and received
  • Emails sent and received
  • Web sites visited
  • Location data

By analysing the retained data governments can identify the locations of individuals, an individual's associates and the members of a group such as political opponents.

Commercial Retention

Commercial data retention involves retaining data related to transactions and web sites visited.


EU Guidelines For Telco Data Retention

On 15 March 2006 the European Union formally adopted Directive 2006/24/EC, 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"

This requires Communications Providers must retain, for a period of between 6 months and 2 years, necessary data to :

  • Trace and identify the source of a communication
  • Trace and identify the destination of a communication
  • Identify the date, time and duration of a communication
  • Identify the type of communication
  • Identify the communication device
  • Identify the location of mobile communication equipment

The data must be retained for a maximum of only 12 months and made available to competent national authorities in specific cases, "for the purpose of the investigation, detection and prosecution of serious crime, as defined by each Member State in its national law".

This includes data from fixed telephony, mobile telephony, Internet access, Internet email and Internet telephony.


UK Guidelines For Data Retention

The United Kingdom [UK] has a system of voluntary data retention derived from Part 11 of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.

Retention of communications data by fixed line and mobile telephone service providers and internet service providers [service providers] includes data which identifies:

The users of services

  • Which services were used and when they were used
  • Who the user contacted.
  • It does not include the content of communications.

This includes the following data:

  1. Subscriber Information
  2. Retention period 12 months
  3. Subscriber details relating to the person
  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Installation and billing address
  • Payment methods - Account/credit card details
  • Contact information -Telephone number, email address
  • Services subscribed to:
    • Telephony: telephone number(s), IMEI, IMSI(s)
    • Email: email address(es), IP at registration
    • Instant messaging: Internet Message Handle, IP at registration
    • ISP - dial-in: Log-in, CLI at registration (if kept)
    • ISP - always-on: Unique identifiers, MAC address (if kept), ADSL end points, IP tunnel address
  • Customer reference/account number

Telephony Data

Retention period 12 months

  • All numbers (or other identifiers e.g. [email protected]) associated with call (e.g. physical/presentational/network
  • Assigned CLI, DNI, IMSI, IMEI, exchange/divert numbers)
  • Date and time of start of call Duration of call/date and time of end of call
  • Type of call (if available)
  • Location data at start and/or end of call, in form of lat/long reference.
  • Cell site data from time cell ceases to be used.
  • IMSI/MSISDN/IMEI mappings.
  • For GPRS & 3G, date and time of connection, IMSI, IP address assigned.
  • Mobile data exchanged with foreign operators
  • IMSI & MSISDN, sets of GSM triples, sets of 3G quintuples, global titles of equipment communicating with or about the subscriber.

Other Retention Periods

Although no global standard has yet been set for all call data retention periods, the adopted terms include:

  • Email Data – retention period 6 months.
  • ISP Data – retention period 6 months.
  • Web Activity Logs – retention period 4 days.
  • Other Services - retention period relative to service provided.
  • Collateral Data - retention period relative to data to which it is related.

Next: Station Message Detail Recording [SMDR]

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