The European Parliament has rejected calls by the UK to compel mobile phone companies and internet service providers to retain electronic data, such as SMS text messages and emails, for up to three years.
The decision has been slammed by Birmingham lawyer Andrew Sparrow - who says it is a setback for Britain's attempts to fight the threat of terrorist activity by analysing the transmission of emails and texts sent by crime suspects.
However, he is not altogether surprised by the rejection.
Mr Sparrow, principal lawyer at Lecote Solicitors, the Birmingham-based internet law specialists, said: "Last year, the UK, supported by France, Ireland and Sweden, sought a framework decision from the European Parliament on the retention of data processed and stored in publicly available electronic communications services for the purpose of preventing, investigating, detecting and prosecuting crime, including terrorism.
"The initiative was rejected by the European Parliament based on a number of civil liberty concerns and a report of its own committee on legal affairs.
"Britain had called for the European Council to examine measures for establishing rules on the retaining of communications traffic data by service providers.
"The aim was to facilitate judicial cooperation in criminal matters by making member states' laws coincide.
"The proposals would have covered traffic and location data, including subscriber and user data, generated by telephony, SMS and internet protocols, including emails, but would not have applied to the actual content of the information communicated.
"The governments' objective was to have such data retained by service providers for a minimum of one year and a maximum of three years.
"If a request was made for mutual legal assistance, member states would be able to gain access to data.
"The proposals contained no rules for reimbursement for costs.
"However, the European Parliament has refused to back the proposal, expressing doubts concerning the proportionality of the measures.
"It is also possible that the proposal contravenes Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
"The Parliament concluded that the ends do not justify the means and held that the measures are neither appropriate nor necessary and are unreasonably harsh.
"Given the volume of data to be retained, in particular internet data, it's unlikely that an appropriate analysis of the SMS and email traffic would be possible."