Feeds

UK.gov to impose data retention dragnet on ISPs

Consultation? What consultation!

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

The Government is to impose a controversial Net surveillance regime on service providers, despite widespread industry criticism that its dragnet data retention approach is costly and unworkable.

On Friday (Sept. 12) the Home Office announced the results of a consultation on a code of practice for the voluntary retention of communications data that reveal the Government remains unmoved by the arguments of the ISP community, civil libertY activists or many backbench MPs.

Currently, ISPs retain data for billing purposes only. But soon they will have to retain communications data for at least a year, under provisions in last year's Anti-Terrorism Crime & Security Act (ATCS).

Data retention obliges service providers to keep data on everyone, in case it is subsequently needed for investigations into serious crime or terrorism.

Data retained will 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 does not include the contents of messages or telephone calls.

In a January report by the All Party Internet Group (APIG) of backbench MPs criticised data retention and urged the Government to consider a lower impact scheme of targeted "data preservation", where service providers retain data on specified individuals at the request of the police. This approach is used in the US, and is favoured by UK ISPs.

APIG's inquiry found the government had underestimated the expense of its data retention scheme, which could cost "well in excess of £100 million", and concluded that the government's approach is impractical.

Despite many such criticisms during the six-month consultation, the Government's commitment to data retention remains intact.

Friday's paper proposes that data should be retained for a maximum period of 12 months and identifies different time limits for retention of different types of data. If this voluntary arrangement proves unacceptable to the industry, the Government will look to make such data retention compulsory.

Home Office minister Caroline Flint said: "The Government believes that retention of communications data under the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act is crucial in the fight against terrorism.

"The code of practice being placed before Parliament produces a balance between what is required to combat terrorism and what is reasonable to ask industry to deliver," she added.

The view aired during the public consultation make it clear that the proposed voluntary ATCS scheme has no hope of acceptance. Civil liberties campaigners have expressed disappointment that promised safeguards had not been included in the regulations.

Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, said the Government had "betrayed the consultation process".

Ian Brown, of FIPR, said since the ATCS was only passed as emergency legislation, the Government should return to Parliament to allow a fuller debate on data retention. As things stands, the controversial rules are set to be imposed on an unwilling ISP community by executive order.

Phil Zimmermann, of PGP fame, described data retention as a threat to civil liberties. He fears that data retention measures might be imposed in US service providers, in parallel with those being contemplated in the UK, via "Patriot Act II", the Bush Administration's next version of anti-terrorism legislation. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
Amazon says Hachette should lower ebook prices, pay authors more
Oh yeah ... and a 30% cut for Amazon to seal the deal
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
Chips are down at Broadcom: Thousands of workers laid off
Cellphone baseband device biz shuttered
Feel free to BONK on the TUBE, says Transport for London
Plus: Almost NOBODY uses pay-by-bonk on buses - Visa
Nintend-OH NO! Sorry, Mario – your profits are in another castle
Red-hatted mascot, red-colored logo, red-stained finance books
Twitch rich as Google flicks $1bn hitch switch, claims snitch
Gameplay streaming biz and search king refuse to deny fresh gobble rumors
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.