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ISPA backs anti-terrorism laws

Devil is in the detail

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The Government has published its anti-terrorism Bill designed to tighten up security in the wake of the September 11 attacks in the US.

In a series of far reaching measures, the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill intends to cut-off terrorists' access to funds and prevent them from abusing immigration and asylum laws.

It also plans to tighten-up security at airports, civil nuclear sites and at laboratories holding stocks of potentially dangerous substances such as anthrax.

But the Bill also has implications for the telecoms and Internet industry, for it will enable communication service providers to retain data - although not content, it's been stressed - for "reasons of national security or where it may be vital for criminal investigation".

The retention of this data will be governed by a voluntary code of practice currently being drawn-up in consultation with industry.

In the event of a major threat to national security this code of practice could be made mandatory.

The Internet Service Provider's Association - the trade group representing ISPs - has welcomed the Bill and has been working with the Government to develop the codes of practice.

These are seen as vital to the successful implementation and working of the emergency measures.

The ISPA has given its support to the Government's bid to counter global terrorism. However, the trade group does has some reservations it feels need to be raised to ensure that measures facing ISPs are practical and workable.

Nicholas Lansman, Secretary-General for the ISPA, told The Register: "We are behind this Bill and we have been working with Government and law enforcement agencies on this.

"It is largely as we expected. But, as ever, the devil is in the detail," he said.

Mr Lansman said that ISPs need to know exactly what information Government and law enforcement agencies require so that the right data can be retained.

And since any move to retain information could be expensive - especially to smaller ISPs - ISPA wants service providers to be able to recover the cost of retaining information.

Negotiations over the codes of practice are set to continue into the new year.

Earlier in the day Home Secretary, David Blunkett, said: "Following the attacks of September 11, it is right that we should take stock and review our laws to see where they might need strengthening.

"This bill contains proportionate and targeted measures which will ensure and safeguard our way of life against those who would take our freedom away," he said. ®

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