The Closing of the Net  "original and valuable"  Times Higher Education

The British  media has been excitedly reporting today that the government intends to bring in  a ‘snoopers charter’  with  ‘social network surveillance’. According to these media reports, based on leaked information from an unnamed source, the government will  allow the secret services and police access to  monitor our phone, email and web communications. It’s being positioned as some kind of master cyber-spy plan.

 There is no public detail of the plan itself.  However, it has been known for some time that the  government is working on something called the Communications Capabilities Development programme (CCDP).  Given what is known about this progamme, I think that the British government  is proposing  an extension of the data retention rules which the British Presidency  pushed through the EU in 2006. The question therefore arises – what will the European Union do about it?

 The policy concerned relates to communications traffic data retention. This is the storage of data related to the time, date and sender/recipient (caller/called party) of messages, to be stored by the network providers, in case of a requirement for access by law enforcement and other specified public authorities.

 EU law requires the data to be available for purposes of dealing with serious crimes. In the UK, there is a problem with the implementation because the list of those who may acces the data is very long, and includes local councils who have used it for trivial purposes, such as dealing with people who fail to scoop up after their dogs in public parks.

 The existing law is limited to fixed ISPs (for email) and specifically excludes web traffic data. That is, it does not require the storage of your web surfing. It was done at a time before Facebook and social media messaging was important.

From what can be ascertained, the new British proposal known as the Communications Capabilities Development programme  wants to extend the law to include precisely those things - social media messaging and web surfing. It may also permit greater access to the data by the security services, although that is unclear.

 It is being said that there will be will be a new law in the Queen’s speech which is due in May. If so, it raises two important questions.

 For a law to be in the Queen’s speech, it must be ready to go through Parliament, which means that they must have been working on it for at least a year.

 And, if it is at that stage, details of the proposal will have been communicated to the European Commission, at least informally.

 The Commission is about to launch a review of the data retention rules for the entire EU, under Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding. This new British law, if it is really ready to go, will have implications for the European one,  and could pre-empt decisions in Europe or force the Commission’s hand. Some countries, like Germany, do not want data retention at all, and  it will provoke a political conflict.

So what do you say, Mrs Reding?

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If you want to check the British media, here are a couple of examples:

The Guardian -  Government plans increased email and social network surveillance

The Daily Mail  - Emails, texts and Facebook messages to be logged under snoopers' charter as Tories revive plans for online surveillance

You may re-publish my article under a Creative Commons licence, but you should cite my name and provide a link back to iptegrity.com. Media and Academics – please cite as Monica Horten,  UK’s  email spy plan – what do you say, Mrs Reding?  www.iptegrity.com,  2 April  2012 . Commercial users - please contact me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Copyright Enforcement Enigma tells the story of the 2009 Telecoms Package and how the copyright industries tried to hijack it.

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Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten, European expert on Internet policy and Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science. She is an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee on Cross-border flow of Internet traffic and Internet freedom (MSI-INT). She was shortlisted for The Guardian Open Internet Poll 2012. Iptegrity  offers expert insights into Internet policy. Iptegrity has a core readership in the Brussels policy community, and has been cited in the media. Please acknowledge Iptegrity when you cite or link.  For more, see IP politics with integrity

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