Feeds

RIPA changes in Freedoms Bill don't protect privacy enough

Changes bring neglible improvement in privacy protection

Mobile application security vulnerability report

The changes with respect to communications data

No local authority has the power to intercept a telephone call or any other form of communication during the course of its transmission, and the only change in the Freedoms Bill relates to local authority collection of communications data. (Communications data are those data that relate to who has called whom, when, for how long and from what location – but not the content of that communication.)

The interception commissioner’s annual report (PDF/315KB) notes that: "During the year ended 31 December, 2009, public authorities as a whole made 525,130 requests for communications data to communication service providers and internet service providers"(ie: there are 43,761 requests per month).

The commissioner then notes that that "during the period covered by this report, 131 local authorities notified me that they had made use of their powers to acquire communications data, and this is slightly more than last year". The commissioner records that local authorities made "a total of 1,756 requests ... for communications data and the vast majority were for basic subscriber information". So before we do any analysis, local authorities collectively only account for 0.33 per cent of the total number of requests for communications data.

If 131 local authorities make 1,756 requests per year, then this works out to a local authority average of 13.4 per year (ie: the average local authority is making just over one request per month – actual figure is 1.1). This figure of 1.1 per month should be compared with the 43,761 requests per month for all of the public sector.

From this we may deduce that from the perspective of each local authority, the provisions in the Freedom Bill will impact on 0.0025 per cent of the total of number of times communications data are used. In this case, to describe the enhanced privacy protection as "inconsequential" is really a gross overstatement of the improvement in protection.

Breaking down statistics

In each case, the analysis shows that each local authority represents 0.05 per cent or less of the actual RIPA activity; 99.95 per cent of RIPA activity is therefore unaffected. Quite simply, there is no significant change to privacy protection.

One cannot help but conclude that this part of the Freedoms Bill has focused on local authorities because it diverts attention from other areas of RIPA. Local authorities (thanks to Poole Council one suspects) are the new “sitting ducks” for government rhetoric.

However, two important questions are not being asked:

  • Why is it that judicial authority is required by a local authority, but not say, the other government departments that also infrequently use RIPA powers?
  • Why is it that the use of these powers are to become subject to judicial authority for just local authorities, when it would reassure the public that all RIPA powers exercised properly by any public authority, if all authorities were subject to judicial authority? After all, all RIPA powers are very invasive of individual privacy ...

When you look at the above, there is only one conclusion: the changes represent only a very thin veneer of additional privacy protection. Be grateful for small mercies, but recognise that they are very small indeed.

This story originally appeared at HAWKTALK, the blog of Amberhawk Training Ltd.

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
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?!
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.