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UK's emergency data slurp: IT giants panicked over 'legal uncertainty'

PM says rushed-through DRIP law will 'plug holes' in existing legislation

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DRIP's drip effect: should the rushed legislation be welcomed by us Brits?

LibDem MP Julian Huppert, who was a vocal critic of May's Communications Data Bill push, said that the emergency law was necessary to address the EU court's decision on the Data Retention Directive.

"We need legislation to allow communications data to be available, but not to store more than is already allowed. And in this post-Snowden world, we need to move towards keeping less, and finding better and more proportionate ways to do so," Huppert said, in a letter to fellow politicos within his own party.

"We need to completely rewrite the law in this area. But that cannot be done quickly. We have to get it right, which will take a lot of work from many experts."

The MP added:

I think it is right to agree to a stop-gap. A piece of legislation that can be passed quickly, but crucially will automatically expire at the end of 2016, giving time to write something better, and the certainty of knowing it will not just become entrenched.

And in this stop-gap legislation, we should agree to no more than was previously allowed.

But not everyone agreed with Huppert's assurances. Eric King of Privacy International questioned the government's motives.

Other critics agreed that the coalition was flouting EU law by pushing through emergency legislation.

But the initial reaction from ISPs in the UK was to gently welcome the plan.

Nicholas Lansman, who is secretary general of lobby group ISPA, said:

ISPA supports proposals that give ISPs more clarity after the Data Retention Directive ruling, however it is vital that any new Bill has enough parliamentary time to be fully scrutinised. We also call on government to consider previous industry concerns over the Communications Data Bill when devising new legislation.

The Register asked Google, Twitter and Facebook to comment on this story, but none of the US data-slurping giants had got back to us at time of writing.

The Institute of Engineering and Technology said that "hasty legislation has often proved to be badly flawed".

It added:

In principle, the proposals are important for national security and law enforcement. It is essential that any intrusion into a citizen's private affairs is minimal, proportionate to the benefits to society as a whole, and properly controlled and supervised.

Britain's data watchdog, information commissioner Christopher Graham, warned that the right balance was needed between the needs of the country's security bods and an individual's privacy.

"The data retention powers the government is looking to replace were withdrawn by the European Court of Justice precisely because the Court felt that balance hadn’t been struck, and so any new law will need very careful thought," he said.

"I’ll be particularly keen to see what safeguards will be in place for the personal data that will be retained. Under the current law the ICO has a supervisory role in relation to the communications data required to be retained for longer by service providers," Graham added.

"If these safeguards are to be replicated in the new law we need to ensure that our role is clear with the independence, powers and resources we require to carry it out."

The government's freshly published DRIP bill can be scrutinised here (PDF). ®

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