EU ministers have agreed on plans to require telecommunications firms to store data to fight terrorism and organised crime.
Following discussions with telecom firms, EU justice and interior ministers yesterday agreed to store records of phone and internet use for at least six months to a maximum of two years.
The deal requires the approval of the European parliament this month for it to come into effect next year
Home secretary Charles Clarke, who chaired the meeting, said data storage was an "essential" tool in the fight against international criminality.
He said data was the "golden thread" in terrorist probes and EU states would be fighting terrorism with both hands tied behind their backs without the measures.
Under the plans, police will have access to information about timings and length of calls, text messages and internet usage, but not the content.
Mr Clarke said the plans had sufficient flexibility for member states who wanted to retain data for longer periods.
Meanwhile, there are fears over how much it would cost businesses to keep such records. The European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association has called for the EU to reimburse telecoms firms.