Feeds

UK ministers push for data retention

Put worries about cost and liberty aside

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

UK ministers have gone on the offensive in Europe in a bid to persuade MEPs to push through laws on data retention.

The draft legislation in question was put forward by individual member states, rather than the commission, in the wake of the Madrid bombings. It would require communications service providers to keep rather loosely defined user and traffic data for a minimum of a year, and possibly indefinitely.

Regular readers might remember that the proposal is widely considered to be unworkable, expensive to implement, invasive, and unnecessary, as well as possibly being illegal. The European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly to back calls for the draft to be abandoned.

Setting details like these aside, Jack Straw (Foreign Secretary) and Charles Clarke (Home Secretary) have used visits to Brussels to urge MEPs to overcome industry fears about costs, and concerns about civil liberties, and pass the necessary laws.

According to a Guardian report Charles Clarke said yesterday: "The question of civil liberties has to be treated in a proportionate way. It is a different civil liberty question whether you have CCTV or not, or whether you retain telecommunications data, or whether you have biometrics on an ID card, to whether somebody is tortured in a country to which they are sent."

Addressing the Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament, he said that he wanted was data retention legislation as quickly as possible, even if it meant reviving the original draft. Sources close to the EU tell us that Clarke did not respond directly when Dutch MEP, Kathalijne Buitenweg, asked whether it was wise, when the directive has been declared illegal, to set the Council of Ministers on a collission course with Parliament and possibly the Commission.

Meanwhile, Jack Straw said that fears about the costs of implementing data retention laws were overstated, and added that ISPs, telcos and mobile operators are not the "most impoverished" of firms.

"There may be some costs but it is surely a cost we ought to pay for the preservation of human life," he said, according to the BBC.

The Labour government, both at home in the UK and in its activities in Europe, certainly has a distinguished track record of trying to keep tabs on people in cyberspace. Let's not forget RIPA, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, which gives authorities the power to force a person to disclose encrypted information, and in some cases, relinquish encryption keys.

Then in 2001, the UK government negotiated and then signed the Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention (still not ratified); it held up agreement on the telecom-specific data protection directive insisting on text being put in article 15 to say that nothing in the directive prevented Member States from implementing data retention; supported and voted for Danish Presidency Conclusions which included Conclusion no. 6:

Member States consider possible and appropriate means of identifying the users of prepaid mobile telephone cards with a view to facilitating the application of the interception measures recognized by the Council

As to whether the original draft will be re-animated, the jury is still out. "I think everyone knows that rushed legislation is rarely good legislation," says Joe McNamee, EU policy director at Political Intelligence.

"Whenever there is an attack, the political - but not the practical and technical - reality changes somewhat, making certain arguments more easy to accept," he added. "When you see headlines like the Observer "Email spying 'could have stopped killers', you can see this quite clearly." ®

Related stories

UK police chase pics, email, phone records in bomber hunt
Europe's data retention laws: dead or alive?
MEPs to vote on 'invasive' data retention plans
EC wants to cap data retention laws
EU's data retention laws could be illegal

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.