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EDITIONS
Thursday, 30 January, 2003, 10:17 GMT
UK stands firm on snooping laws
Police officers
Police say that need ISPs to keep hold of data
The UK Government is determined to push ahead with its plans for internet snooping despite mounting opposition.

A report from MPs on the All Party Internet Group, (APIG), recommended on Tuesday that the government abandon plans to require internet service providers to store customer data for up to six years.

It recommended that the government should ask internet service providers to keep data as and when law enforcers require.

But at the launch of the APIG report, Home Office Minister Bob Ainsworth said the government would not be doing this.

Costly debate

"We have looked at the possibility of data preservation as a solution but don't believe it will deliver the necessary response to the threats we face," he said.

Bob Ainsworth MP
We hadn't appreciated the lack of debate

Bob Ainsworth, Home Office
Net service firms have been particularly concerned about the logistics of retaining six year's worth of customer details, e-mail records and web browsing habits.

AOL has estimated it would need 360,000 CDs each year at a cost of 34m to set up and maintain the system.

Mr Ainsworth claimed that it would not cost as much as AOL and others have estimated, although he declined to give figures.

"The costs are nowhere near as high as those presented to APIG," he said, "but it is not as simple as saying 'these are the costs'."

"We need an open dialogue [with industry] and we have moved a long way, but it needs to continue," he added.

He also made it clear that if a voluntary code of practice on data retention did not prove workable then the government would force ISPs to retain data.

Root and branch look

On the whole the government welcomed the APIG report said Mr Ainsworth.

He added that the Home Office would be studying its recommendations in detail ahead of a consultation process on implementing Section II of the complex and controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).

Relationships between the Home Office and the net industry had greatly improved over the last year, he said.

He rejected criticism that the government was only now discussing the issues raised by RIPA and the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act, both of which were already Acts of Parliament.

"It is not that we have implemented legislation and are making it work hereafter, because not all the legislation is in force," he said.

We welcome the fact that we have to jump hurdles to access data

Jim Gamble, National Crime Squad
He admitted that the government had not appreciated the depth of feeling within the industry about government proposals.

"We hadn't appreciated the lack of debate going back to the original passage of RIPA," he said.

However, it was important that the next stage of implementing RIPA - working out which public bodies had access to personal data - was done by listening to industry.

"We need a clear framework about what data is accessed and this is a root and branch look at how we satisfy people about what we are proposing to do," he said.

Catching criminals

Jim Gamble, Assistant Chief Constable of the National Crime Squad, reiterated law enforcers' impatience to get the legislation up and running.

"Data retention is crucial. On many occasions it may be some years before we find the piece of evidence which identifies criminals," he said.

The report calls for the government to clarify how the law will work, as currently some of the laws conflict with each other and with the Human Rights Act.

"We don't want ambiguity on what we do and how we do it," said Mr Gamble.

"We welcome the fact that we have to jump hurdles to access data; and would rather that than face the high jump when we don't access data in the appropriate way," he said.

How law enforcers access data has a direct correlation to bringing criminals to book, he said.

"We aren't doing it on a whim but to keep the community safe," he said.

The consultation on implementing Section II of RIPA is due to start at the end of January.

See also:

28 Jan 03 | Technology
19 Dec 02 | Technology
20 Aug 02 | Technology
17 Jul 02 | Science/Nature
26 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
Internet links:


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