THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT will introduce a Communications Data Bill that will allow law enforcement agencies to access communications records apparently without warrants or judicial oversight.
The government's Draft Communications Data Bill was introduced in the Queen's speech as "measures to maintain the ability of the law enforcement and intelligence agencies to access vital communications data under strict safeguards to protect the public, subject to the scrutiny of draft clauses". The government's draft Bill claims it will protect the public by giving law enforcement agencies access to communications, and this is already being criticised as a "snooper's charter".
According to the government's draft bill, "communications data" is the metadata associated with a communication, so information on the telephone number, duration and time of a phone call will be recorded but the actual conversation cannot be obtained under this draft Bill. In the context of email, the government said the email address and sometimes the location of the communication originator could be accessed but not the body of the email.
Telecom companies and internet service providers will have to collect and retain all of this information for 12 months, which is likely to make those firms rather unhappy. The draft bill said there should be a "framework to facilitate the lawful, efficient and effective obtaining of communications data by authorised public authorities including law enforcement and intelligence agencies".
Although the government said it will establish "strict safeguards" to access collected data, few will believe that such safeguards will preserve privacy after law enforcement agencies have been so keen to capture such data for years under the guise of providing security. µ
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