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Government publishes 'data snooping' bill

The government has today published the Communications Data Bill, which will give police access to communications data for the purposes of tackling crime.

Home secretary Theresa May said: "Communications data saves lives. It is a vital tool for the police to catch criminals and to protect children. If we stand by as innovation changes, we will leave police officers fighting crime with one hand tied behind their backs.

"Checking communication records, not content, is a crucial part of day-to-day policing and the fingerprinting of the modern age – we are determined to ensure its continued availability in cracking down crime."

The Home Office

According to the Home Office, the legislation will require communication service providers, when requested to do so, to retain and store communications records that they might not already keep.

However, the government said that communication service providers "will be reimbursed for any costs of complying" with the new legislation.

Existing data regulations in the UK, just as the Data Retention Directive, already allow intelligence officers to access historic communications data held by ISPs, telcos and social media platforms, during the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 allows access to real-time communications data on a one-off basis.

The new bill will continue to allow police access to communications data, however only in the context of a specific investigation. It will replace the communications data provisions of RIPA.

The existing data laws allow public bodies

While the existing data laws allow public bodies, including councils, to access communications data, the new bill will be limited to just four bodies – the police, the Serious Organised Crime Agency or the National Crime Agency, the intelligence agencies and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

The Interception of Communications Commissioner will continue to independently oversee the acquisition of communications data by public authorities, and will as well oversee the collection of communications data by communication service providers.

The safeguards proposed

Among the safeguards proposed by the bill, all communications data retained by the CSPs will be destroyed afterwards the 12-month retention period, unless required for legal proceedings.

Meanwhile, the communications industry will be responsible for ensuring that retained data is protected against loss, unlawful destruction and unauthorised access. This will be overseen by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

In addition, the Intelligence and Security Committee said that it has started its own investigation into the communications data bill to ensure that the proposed safeguards are robust enough to protect personal privacy.

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More information: Cio.co