The vote means that member states will have to impose on internet service providers and telecommunication operators an obligation to store all traffic and location data for fixed and mobile telephony as well as e-mail, web-browsing, instant messaging and other internet services. The data will have to be stored for a period of six to 24 months and must be made accessible to authorities investigating on non-specified "serious crimes". When first proposed after the 11 March 2004 Madrid bombings, the proposal had been justified through the fight against terrorism. Its opponents say criminals will have no problems covering their electronic tracks.
In the 14 December 2005 vote, the amended draft legal resolution was adopted with 378 votes - mainly from the EPP/DE and PSE groups - against 197, mainly from the ALDE, Green, GUE/NGL, IND/DEM and EDD groups. In the debate preceding the vote, a number of MEPs from the two bigger groups had supported the rapporteur's (Alexander Alvaro, ALDE, Germany) critical stance towards the Council's approach to data retention. Opponents criticised the proposal's content as being disproportionate and reminiscent of 'Big Brother'. They also criticised the procedure, which involved pressure being put by the UK presidency on the Parliament to adhere to the UK's position.
On 24 November 2005 the Parliament's LIBE committee had voted for a report that would have limited the data storage obligation considerably. During the three weeks between this vote and the one in the plenary, the UK Presidency put pressure on MEPs mainly from the two big groups to vote for the set of compromise amendments that was adopted on 14 December 2005. The UK Presidency threatened to sideline the Parliament by pushing for the Council to adopt a framework decision on data retention that would go even further than the directive adopted.
Following the vote, an industry alliance covering the full range of of electronic communication services providers in the EU said the outcome put "Europe's competitiveness and information society at stake".