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UK government slammed over 'emergency' data retention rules for ISPs

A temporary and urgent knee-jerk reaction to something that happened in April
Thu Jul 10 2014, 13:39
The Home Secretary

UK HOME SECRETARY Theresa May has introduced 'emergency' data retention rules that were heavily criticised before being announced.

Opponents of the surveillance state quickly reacted with objections to the news that the government will introduce hard core citizen data retention rules affecting internet service providers (ISPs).

They were reacting to early revelations of information. May's statement in the House of Commons followed those objections, but did little to cool the fiery response to something that sounds a lot like the Snoopers' Charter.

May said that the UK relies on data in its fight against terrorism and crime of all kinds, saying that it is used in successful convictions in the majority of cases. She added that a recent European Court of Justice decision this spring would impact on this and needed tackling.

Tackling it, she said, will require service providers to retain communications data for a year, a stance that flies in the face of the ECJ ruling that blanket data retention is unlawful.

The UK government will tackle this through a mix of rules and proposed rules. The proposals, which MPs have very little time to consider, will lead to data retention rules that will be in force until at least 2016, when they will be sunsetted.

"Communications data ... and interception, are vital for combatting crime and fighting terrorism ... Without them we would not be able to keep the public safe," May said.

MP Tom Watson opposed the moves before May's speech, and said on Twitter that he had asked other Labour members to follow his lead.

"I've asked Labour's front bench to publicly oppose the rush for legislation. MPs need time to read any proposed bill," he said. "MPs have not seen the bill that will be railroaded through next week."

The MP is not the only opponent and groups including the Open Rights Group and the UK Pirate Party have thrown their reservations into the mix.

"Not only will the proposed legislation infringe our right to privacy, it will also set a dangerous precedent where the government simply re-legislates every time it disagrees with a decision by the CJEU. Blanket surveillance needs to end. That is what the court has said," said Open Rights Group director Jim Killock.

"The government has had since April to address the CJEU ruling but it is only now that organisations such as ORG are threatening legal action that this has become an 'emergency'."

The Pirate Party was equally damning, and accused the government of going in way too hard.

"Once again this is a cynical attempt to increase the grip of mass surveillance on the British people," said Loz Kaye, leader of the Pirate Party. "This back-room deal between all three main parties is nothing short of a stitch up."

Elsewhere, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) cautioned against the implementation of 'hasty' legislation.

"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," said Dr Martyn Thomas of the IET.

"Hasty legislation has often proved to be badly flawed. The government has not yet published the detail of the proposed bill, so it's important to make sure that the draft bill is examined and debated in detail before legislation is passed."

The writing has been on the wall for this sort of thing, and the government has long eyed up a strong communications investigation and surveillance regime.

Last month in her Lord Mayor's Defence and Security lecture, the home secretary spoke of the need to defend citizens.

"Governments have always reserved the power to monitor communications and to collect data about communications when it is necessary and proportionate to do so," she said.

"It is much harder now - there is more data, we do not own it and we can no longer always obtain it. I know some people will say 'hurrah for that' - but the result is that we are in danger of making the internet an ungoverned, ungovernable space, a safe haven for terrorism and criminality." µ


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