Feeds

Jacqui Smith trails überdatabase plans

Let's have a consensus

High performance access to file storage

The Home Secretary has today warned that the government will legislate to collect more data on internet communications because it believes it will help fight serious crime and terrorism.

Jacqui Smith trailed the forthcoming Commmunications Data Bill in a speech this morning to the Institute for Public Policy Research. MI6 and GCHQ have pushed hard for the Bill to mandate a huge central database to retain details of who contacted whom online, where and when.

Currently the major telcos have arrangements in place to provide intelligence and law enforcement with call data on request. It's been argued at Whitehall that the rise of IP-based communications services such as VoIP, chat, email and the web are eroding authorities' ability to monitor and investigate crime. New laws are needed to "maintain capability", hawks insist.

"That is not a government policy that is somehow optional. It is a reality to which the government must respond," Smith said tody, referring to the growth of internet services.

She stopped short of directly referencing the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP) however, as our report in late September indicated. IMP is the proposed solution to the alleged security problem caused by internet communications. The proposed giant storage silo would reportedly cost £12bn*.

Smith played down the civil liberties concerns being raised of the moves. "There are no plans for an enormous database which will contain the content of your emails, the texts that you send or the chats you have on the phone or online", she said (our emphasis). "Nor are we going to give local authorities the power to trawl through such a database in the interest of investigating lower level criminality under the spurious cover of counter terrorist legislation."

Yet the concerns remain. Lord Carlile, the Liberal Democrat peer and top barrister who serves as the government's independent scrutineer of counter-terror legislation, has warned today that any access to a central database must be strictly controlled. He told El Reg: "The current system [for intelligence and law enforcement to obtain communications data] really is haphazard and unsatisfactory, but the raw idea [of a central database] is dreadful. The devil will be in the detail."

Reg sources have suggested that spy chiefs are keen on the idea of a central database's potential power for cross referencing data and profiling. Lord Carlile said that such "fishing expeditions" must not be allowed and that access to any central silo should be on a case-by-case basis.

Other people familiar with the plans have insisted that any pooling of data is unneccessary and too big a threat to civil liberties. In her speech, Jacqui Smith noted that since 2004 communications data has been used "as important evidence in 95 per cent of serious crime cases and in almost all Security Service operations".

Such a statistic raises the question of why more powers are needed. The Home Office said it would get back to us on that.

Smith said a consultation on the Communications Data Bill will begin in the new year. "I am clear that we need to consult widely with the public and all interested parties to set out the emerging problem, the important capability gaps that we need to address and to look at the possible solutions... my aim is to achieve a consensus," she said.

Nevertheless, as we reported in mid-August, the Interception Modernisation programme has already been allocated almost £1bn. ®

*The EU Data Retention Directive, which separately requires ISPs to retain communications data themselves, is also set to become law next year. More here.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.