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UK ISPs oppose data retention

Compulsory scheme likely after industry baulks at voluntary codes

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UK ISPs are refusing to voluntarily implement the Home Office's controversial data retention scheme.

The Internet Service Providers Association (which represents ISPs) remains unconvinced that government requirements to customer email and Web site logs over extended periods is necessary in the fight against serious crime and terrorism, The Guardian reports. ISPs are concerned about the cost and privacy implications of changing their procedures to allow law enforcement access to customer data, introduced as part of the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act of last December.

The ISPA is questioning the legality of the measures. Their doubts echo similar concerns from Europe's Data Protection Commissioners.

A letter to the Home Office from Nicholas Lansman, secretary general of the Internet Service Providers Association, said the government has failed to address industry concerns or make a convincing case for data retention.

"The document fails to provide details of the number of investigations that are currently compromised through lack of available data and assess whether this is detrimental to the public interest and national security," Lansman wrote in the letter, a copy of which was leaked to The Guardian. "The investigations cited refer to cases in which officers sought data older than 15 months and where there was no national security consideration involved."

Negotiations between government and service providers over the controversial measures appear to have broken down.

Faced with industry opposition, Home Secretary David Blunkett will have to decide whether to abandon the voluntary scheme - and make data retention mandatory. Powers to allow him to impose data retention against the will of ISPs are included in the Act.

At present, service providers only retain data for billing purposes, but that is set to change because of plans that ISPs retain data for up to two years, in the event of it becoming of interest in police or security service investigations into serious crime or terrorism.

This data would include catalogues of web sites visited, records of e-mail recipients, lists of telephone numbers dialled, and the geographical location of mobile phones at all times they were switched on. It doesn't include the contents of messages. ®

Related Stories

EU data protection chiefs oppose data retention moves
EU to force ISPs and telcos to retain data for one year
MEPs vote for Big Brother
World leaders use terror card to watch all of us. Forever
Spam out, cookies tolerated, data retention remains: EU

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Early British law enforcement proposals for data retention

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