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Parliament: Snoop Charter plan 'too sweeping', 'misleading', 'suspicious'

'Goes much further than it need or should'

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'Unacceptable risks to the privacy of individuals'

Civil liberties groups have expressed concern about the notion of spooks and cops being granted access to web logs that might be considered a "highly intrusive form of communications data", the joint committee noted. It has been suggested that such access could give rise to "unacceptable risks to the privacy of individuals".

The MPs and peers want to strengthen the safeguards detailed in the draft bill and said:

We acknowledge that storing web log data, however securely, carries the possible risk that it may be hacked into or may fall accidentally into the wrong hands, and that, if this were to happen, potentially damaging inferences about people's interests or activities could be drawn. Parliament will have to decide where the balance between these opposing considerations should be struck.

The technical feasibility and cost effectiveness of CSPs retaining web logs only on certain types of web services was also brought into question in the report with a recommendation that the Home Office examined such a plan.

Alarm bells were sounded over those overseas providers who refuse to comply with retention notices laid out by security agencies in the UK, which would - under the current plan - lead to Blighty-based CSPs having to keep "third party data traversing their networks". Telcos are said to be "very nervous about these provisions."

The report said:

"The Home Office has given an oral commitment to UK CSPs that the Home Secretary will invoke the third party provisions only after the original data holder has been approached and all other avenues have been exhausted. The Home Office has also given a commitment that no CSPs will be asked to store or decrypt encrypted third party data."

The committee urged: "These commitments should be given statutory force."

On the topic of who should be granted access to comms data, the report points out that 10 permitted purposes are listed on the bill and says that Clause 9(7) allowing the Secretary of State to add further permitted purposes by order "should be deleted".

The politicos said that the language of RIPA was outdated and should not be used as the basis on a new law on monitoring the web activity of British citizens.

The report noted "the challenge will lie in creating definitions that will stand the test of time." It advised further confabs with the tech industry to determine the right terminology for the bill.

It went on to say that May's draft law was "particularly problematic" when it comes to subscriber and traffic data definitions.

The report said:

"Currently the definition of subscriber data could be read to cover all sorts of data that social networks and other services keep on their customers which can be highly personal and is not traditionally thought of as communications data."

Concern was also expressed by the committee about the lack of definition for the word "content" within the draft bill.

"Although it may not be possible to define content clearly beyond the fact that it is the 'what' of a communication, it is nevertheless important that the content should be expressly excluded from all categories of communications data."

Meanwhile, the committee recommended that the single point of contact (SPOC) authorisation process for accessing comms data "should be enshrined in primary legislation." It called on the creation of a SPOC service modelled on the National Anti-Fraud Network service, which advises local authorities.

The MPs and peers said a new surveillance commission which would be armed with "multi-skilled investigators and human rights and computer experts" should be considered.

Costs estimated in the draft bill relating to the security and destruction of data needed further assessment, the committee said - and it suggested that the Home Office's current figures may be an underestimation of the true costs involved with those processes.

The overall cost of the entire system over the course of 10 years has been estimated to be £1.8bn - a figure the committee has labelled as "fanciful".

And - as if to underscore the MPs and peers' frustration at the Home Office - the report noted:

The CSPs will incur costs mainly for retaining, securely storing, accessing and ultimately destroying communications data, but also for matters such as training. The Home Office gave a figure of £859m over 10 years for reimbursing the additional costs to the private sector.

This is nearly half of the overall figure of £1.8bn. However this figure must be highly suspect, because it was calculated with little or no input from the CSPs.

Last week, May attempted some last minute lobbying to get people to support her bill by telling the Sun newspaper that her planned law would "save lives" by flushing out terrorists and paedophiles. ®

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