‘Big Brother’ fears over Terror bill

The Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill, published yesterday, will allow law enforcement agencies to compel ISPs to retain traffic data.

The new Bill builds on the interception and disclosure aspects of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, said Rupert Battcock, solicitor at IT law specialists Nabarro Nathanson.

‘The new Bill would go further than this and introduce a requirement to retain data, at least for a certain period,’ Nathanson said.

Law enforcement agencies have been pushing for the mandatory collection of all types of communication data, in order to create a data warehouse containing communication logs from all internet service providers and telecom operators. The aim is to make policing cheaper, said Caspar Bowden, chairman of IT watchdog, the Foundation for Information Policy Research.

‘This is very close to the classic idea of Big Brother,’ he said.

The European Parliament has also been looking at the issue of data retention as part of its debate on privacy protection in electronic communications.

The UK Parliament voted yesterday to allow its members to restrict data protection provisions ‘if necessary to safeguard national security, defence, public security, the prevention, investigation or prosecution of criminal offences.’

While the European Parliament also voted to ensure that any surveillance would not be allowed on a wide scale and be ‘entirely exceptional’, Battcock warned that conflicts with UK proposals may not prevent the government enacting the Terrorism Bill.

‘If there is any problem, it can probably be sidestepped,’ he said.

Industry body, the Internet Service Providers Association, has questioned the workability of the UK proposals, considering the cost to internet service providers of storing the data and the actual usefulness of it to any police investigation.

The RIP Act caused howls of disapproval from industry watchers concerned about who would be allowed access to information on sensitive internet logs, containing details of websites visited, and who emails have been sent to and received from.

The latest Bill would add to the burden by introducing a requirement for this information to be stored, for an as yet unspecified period.


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