Feeds

UK.gov dishes out £19m for comms snoop data silos

Rising cash outlay opens telco doors for plod, spooks

Mobile application security vulnerability report

The UK government has given communications providers almost £19m in the last four years under anti-terror laws to pay for access to huge compulsory databases of customer information.

The annual level of grants under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (ATCSA) and the EU Data Retention Directive 2007 (EUDRD) has rocketed from £84,582 in 2004 to £8,346,495 in 2007.

In the first six months of this year more than £4m has already been paid out to cover the costs of retaining and serving data detailing customer calls and internet use.

The figures were revealed by the Home Office in response to a Parliamentary question by David Carnegie, the Earl of Northesk. They show a total of 26 payments since 2004 (the ATCSA code of practice was approved by Parliament in 2003). As well as witnessing the greatest cash total, 2007 saw the highest frequency of data retention handouts with 10 grants made. This year is on target to match that level with five grants made by the end of June.

It's unknown which companies have received the money. Cambridge University security researcher Richard Clayton said: "It would be reasonable to guess that most of that money was spent on telcos [rather than ISPs]."

Under the regulations telephone providers store details of who their customers have called - and when and for how long - for a year. Major phone operators routinely store such data for billing and marketing purposes.

The government spending is therefore unlikely to have been spent on storage hardware. Sources familiar with the government's data retention initiatives say it's more likely that most of the grants over the past four years have been given to the big fixed line and mobile operators implementing systems to make it easier for authorities to access their communications data.

The Home Office told The Register: "We initially started out working with smaller companies, but increasingly are working with bigger organisations with a view to the first part of the EUDRD coming into effect in October 2007. We have continued that process with a view to the final transposition of the EUDRD in March 2009."

Official demands for call and internet usage data retained under ATCSA or EUDRD are mandated by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). A separate grant-making power under that Act pays providers to offer wiretap access to the actual call or IP stream contents to law enforcement officers who have obtained a warrant.

According to the Parliamentary answer offered by Home Office minister Lord West, many grants that would have been made under ATCSA, which was pushed through Parliament in the wake of 9/11, are now paid under EUDRD.

The EUDRD is aimed at harmonising data retention across the bloc. It also supplants ATCSA's code of practice by making retention compulsory and bringing ISPs into line with telephone providers.

The Directive requires governments to implement its rules in legislation by March 2009. Telephone providers are already covered by EUDRD compliance laws that came into force in October last year. In May this year, Gordon Brown trailed the new Communications Data Bill, which is being drafted to bring the UK into compliance with all of the EUDRD, including its internet traffic provisions.

Alongside news of the draft bill, the government floated plans for a giant central database to pool all communications data. The idea sparked an outcry from privacy and civil liberties campaigners. Such a system would also supercede compliance systems currently in place at telcos and ISPs, and could render much of the government's £19m investment redundant. ®

Bootnote

The Hansard entry for the question does not include the figures the Earl of Northesk requested, which we understand was the result of an administrative cock-up. Here's the full rundown:


Financial year Grant payments ATCSA EUDRD
2004 5 84,582 -
2005 2 770,800 -
2006 4 5,282,100 -
2007 10 5,714,045 2,632,450
2008* 5 2,283,695 1,788,859

* Year to 1 July

Figures in the last two columns are pounds sterling.

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
UK.gov's Open Source switch WON'T get rid of Microsoft, y'know
What do you mean, we've ditched Redmond in favour of IBM?!
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
US Social Security 'wasted $300 million on an IT BOONDOGGLE'
Scrutiny committee bods probe derailed database project
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Australia floats website blocks and ISP liability to stop copyright thieves
Big Content could get the right to order ISPs to stop traffic
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
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.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
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.