University of Cambridge, Faculty of Law

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Nora Ní Loideaín

Magdalene College

The EU Data Retention Directive (2006/24/EC): regulating state surveillance of communications data and the right to respect for private life


  As recently highlighted by Edward Snowden, legal frameworks exist to prevent the misuse and abuse of personal information that law enforcement authorities obtain from private communication providers. The abundant amount of data collected from our daily correspondence creates vast databases that monitor the private life of every citizen, particularly their relationships and movements. Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), a provision of international human rights law, governs the covert use of this surveillance within the EU. Its safeguards have raised standards in the transparency and accountability of domestic laws regulating the covert surveillance of communications across Europe since 1984. Major technological and regulatory changes have taken place in the interim, however, particularly the ubiquitous use of Internet-based and mobile communication devices and the accompanying shift from monitoring specific individuals to the widespread and indiscriminate surveillance of mass populations. My doctoral thesis investigates whether the standard of protection under Article 8 ECHR has kept up to date with these developments or whether EU policy makers and the courts have failed to ensure that these safeguards are still adequate and effective. This research is the first in-depth legal examination of whether EU law (the Data Retention Directive) regulating the State surveillance of every citizens’ communications data since 2006 has met the human rights standards guaranteed under this international human rights instrument and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. My dissertation will contribute to one of the most dynamic areas of regulation and human rights in the EU. Evaluation of the laws governing the secret monitoring of communications data warrants consistent and rigorous scrutiny. Otherwise, legal safeguards applied by policy-makers and the courts risk becoming more of an illusion than a reality.  

Start Date: 2011/09.

End Date: 2014/09.

Education / CV

PhD Candidate, CHESS Scholar

Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge

2011 – 2014


Awarded EUSA Ernst Haas Fellowship

European Union Studies Association



Visiting Researcher

Faculty of Law, University of Cape Town



Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law (CIPIL) Researcher

Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge

2013 – 2014


Cambridge Pro Bono Project (CPP) Researcher

Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge

2012 – 2013


Legal Research Officer

Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions of Ireland

2008 – 2011


Judicial Researcher

Supreme Court and High Court of Ireland

2007 – 2008 


Senior Research Assistant

National University of Ireland, Galway

Faculty of Law

2006 – 2007


Tutor in criminal law

National University of Ireland, Galway

Faculty of Law

2006 – 2007


Fields of Research

Civil liberties and human rights, particularly the right to respect for private life and correspondence under the EU and ECHR systems; EU law; criminal justice; data protection; law reform.


Representative Publications

N. Ni Loideain, "Judicial review of mass metadata surveillance in the post-Snowden era"

(2015) Media and Communication - Special Issue on Surveillance: Critical Analysis and Current Challenges (forthcoming)


S.B. Wicker, Cellular Convergence and the Death of Privacy (Oxford University Press, 2013)

(2014) 4(3) International Data Privacy Law 243 (Author of book review)


N. Ni Loideain, "The Draft EU Data Protection Package: A history of the EU's privacy reform efforts and a look forward to the finish line"

Article published by International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), 5 December 2013

This article provides an overview of the progress of the EU data protection reforms to date and also discusses some reflections and predictions which are likely to influence when both the draft Regulation and Directive will be enacted.


"Surveillance of Communications Data and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights",

Presentation from 6th International Annual CPDP Conference - selected for peer review publication in:

S.Gutwirth, R. Leenes, P. De Hert & Y. Poullet (eds.), Reloading Data Protection (Springer, 2013)


"Surveillance of Communications Data and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights", Presentation selected for "Big Data and Surveillance" session

6th International Annual Computers, Privacy and Data Protection Conference (CPDP)

Brussels, 25 January 2013


C.T. Marsden, Internet Co-Regulation: European Law, Regulatory Governance and Legitimacy in Cyberspace (Cambridge University Press, 2011)

(2012) 71(2) Cambridge Law Journal 457-458. (Author of book review)


N. Ni Loideain, “Assessing the Evaluation of the EC Data Retention Directive” in C. M. Akrivopoulou & N. Garipidis (eds.), Human Rights and Risks in the Digital Era: Globalization and the Effects of Information Technologies (Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference, 2012), 67-79.


N. Ni Loideain, “Implications of the EC Data Retention Directive for Data Protection and Privacy” in C. M. Akrivopoulou & A. Psygkas (eds.), Personal Data Privacy and Protection in a Surveillance Era: Technologies and Practices (Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference, 2011), 256-272.


Professor David Feldman