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Report: UK.gov wants to legislate on comms data BEFORE next election

Ministerial alarm sets in over EU court's data retention ruling

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The UK's Tory-led coalition government is reportedly pushing to bring in a new surveillance law forcing ISPs to retain subscriber data for 12 months ahead of next year's General Election.

It's the latest in a series of attempts from the Theresa May-led Home Office to legislate on communications data, known colloquially as the snooper's charter.

The latest bid to revive May's unloved plan comes after a recent decision from judges in the European Union's highest court ruled that the Data Retention Directive was "invalid".

The European Court of Justice said in April that a measure that required ISPs to retain data for two years was unsound because it interfered not only with data protection rules, but also with fundamental rights to respect for private life.

As The Register has previously reported, the Liberal Democrat Party, which is the junior member of the Coalition government, has rejected May's proposals.

But the Lib Dems, along with Labour - which has already hinted that it would legislate on communications data on similar grounds to those laid out by the Tories - appear to have indicated broad support for the latest push for better super-snoop powers to allow spooks to monitor our online activities.

A Lib Dem insider told the Guardian that the party's leader, Nick Clegg, had softened his stance somewhat in light of the data retention directive being ripped up by judges.

"There is no question of a snooper's charter, watered down or otherwise, being introduced by this government," the source told the newspaper.

"The government does have to respond to the European Court of Justice ruling, which we are currently examining, and will respond in due course. But that is about the retention of existing powers rather than their extension."

Tory peer Lord Wasserman - who among other things advises mobile operator Telefonica UK on public sector business - recently told the House:

Without these regulations, providers have no reason to retain the data and, given the current concern post-Snowden, do not very much want to retain it unless they are compelled to do so. I am aware that the government are trying hard to find a way forward on this issue but I urge them to act boldly and courageously in tackling it.

Communications data is now used in more than 90 per cent of serious and organised crime investigations and is vital in bringing serious criminals to justice and protecting the most vulnerable among us.

The Home Office said it was mulling over its options.

"The retention of communications data is absolutely fundamental to ensure law enforcement have the powers they need to investigate crime, protect the public and ensure national security," May's department said. "We are carefully considering the European court of justice's judgment on data retention and are currently examining potential next steps." ®

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