Feeds

Tories fear legal dodge over comms überdatabase

Euro data law comes into force on Monday

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Laws mandating a massive central database of email, web browsing, telephone and social networking data may already have been passed without proper scrutiny by MPs, according to the Conservatives.

The Home Office is due to publish its delayed consultation on the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP) "shortly".

In a Lords debate on privacy on Thursday, however, shadow security minister Baroness Neville-Jones asked whether the European rules obliging data retention by ISPs, which come into force on Monday, could be used to legitimise a centralised system or a prototype. UK law was brought into line with the EU data retention directive by statutory instrument, so it was not debated by either house of Parliament.

"The Government have not been able to satisfy these benches that last week's statutory instrument did not create a vehicle through which the interception modernisation programme could be carried into practice without further primary legislation," Neville-Jones said.

Leaked plans for a central warehouse of data detailing who contacts whom, when and where have been described as a potential personal data "hellhouse" by recently-retired Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Ken Macdonald. The government says it has not settled on a system.

When the government first announced its intention for laws mandating the Interception Modernisation Programme early last year, it said they would be bundled with the EU laws in a single piece of primary legislation, the Communications Data Bill. Primary legislation requires the approval of MPs.

The plan was changed last summer, with the EU laws brought in separately, ostensibly to meet Brussels' compliance deadline.

Neville-Jones said: "The draft Queen's Speech led us to believe that primary legislation would be forthcoming and that the powers contained in the [statutory instrument] would be transposed in a bill of primary legislation.

"Instead, the [statutory instrument] has been transposed separately, and against the background of the Home Secretary having cast doubt in a recent speech on the need for primary legislation."

In October, during a speech at the Institute for Public Policy Research, Jacqui Smith discussed IMP publicly for the first time. "The changes we need to make may require legislation," she said. "The safeguards we will want to put in place certainly will. And we may need legislation to test what a solution will look like."

Responding for the government yesterday, Ministry of Justice minister Lord Bach declined to directly address Neville-Jones' concern over whether IMP could go ahead without further legislation or Parliamentary scrutiny. "There has been, we believe, widespread misrepresentation of our plans for future communications data retention," he said.

"Since those plans have not been finalised, I cannot say that there will be a prototype, as plans will be confirmed only after the consultation."

A Home Office spokesman declined to say whether primary legislation will be brought forward, or whether the EU data retention directive could be used as a legal mandate. "We will be going into consultation shortly and options will be put," he said, saying Smith's speech in October explained the government's position.

Register sources have indicated a prototype communications data collection system is proposed, with funding of almost £1bn already secured from the counter-terror budget, allocated during 2007's Comprehensive Spending Review. BT and Vodafone have been lined up as cooperative fixed line and mobile operators to provide the first data, our sources say.

Professor Richard Clayton of Cambridge University's computer lab said the EU data retention laws were unlikely to offer legal cover for the massive network of deep packet inspection (DPI) equipment that ubiquitous communications data collection would require. "It's clear that being forced to fit DPI equipment would go well beyond what the directive envisages," he said. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
Lawyers mobilise angry mob against Apple over alleged 2011 Macbook Pro crapness
We suffered 'random bouts of graphical distortion' - fanbois
Just don't blame Bono! Apple iTunes music sales PLUMMET
Cupertino revenue hit by cheapo downloads, says report
US court SHUTS DOWN 'scammers posing as Microsoft, Facebook support staff'
Netizens allegedly duped into paying for bogus tech advice
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
Verizon bankrolls tech news site, bans tech's biggest stories
No agenda here. Just don't ever mention Net neutrality or spying, ok?
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
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?
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Mitigating web security risk with SSL certificates
Web-based systems are essential tools for running business processes and delivering services to customers.