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Last Updated: Friday, 24 February 2006, 01:50 GMT
UK rapped on data retention law
By Alfred Hermida
Technology Editor, BBC News website

Police officer looking at a computer
The UK argued the measure were necessary to help fight terrorism
Britain's net industry has named the UK presidency of the EU as its villain of the year.

The Internet Service Providers' Association (Ispa) singled out the UK for its role in pushing for Europe-wide data retention laws.

The laws, requiring telecom operators to store phone and internet data to help fight terrorism, received its final go-ahead earlier this week.

Net companies are concerned about the cost of holding and managing the data.

Green light

The measures were proposed by the UK after the bomb attacks in London in July.

It campaigned hard during its six-month presidency of the EU for the new legislation, arguing it was necessary to help fight terrorism and organised crime.

Agreement on retaining communications data places a vital tool against terrorism and serious crime in the hands of law enforcement agencies across Europe
Charles Clark, Home Secretary
The measures were approved by the European Parliament in December and received the green light from justice ministers in Brussels on Tuesday.

EU countries will have until August 2007 to implement the data retention directive.

Under the legislation, internet service providers and telecoms operators will have to keep details of their subscribers' communications for up to two years.

The measures will require firms to keep records of all phone calls and internet communications for a period of six months to two years, although the content will not be recorded.

The legislation has drawn the ire of industry representatives - as service providers will have to bear the costs of the storage themselves.

'Work with industry'

At its annual awards ceremony on Thursday, Ispa awarded the UK presidency of the EU the dubious honour of internet villain of the year.

Internet Villain: UK Presidency of the European Union
Internet Hero: All Party Parliamentary Internet Group
Developments in Online Safety: Virtual Global Taskforce
Best dial-up: BISCit Internet
Best portal: Tiscali
Best consumer ISP: Wanadoo
Best Light Consumer Broadband: UK Online
Best Heavy Consumer Broadband: Madasafish
Best Sumo Consumer Broadband: Be Unlimited
Best Business ISP: Zen Internet
Best Light Business Broadband: Exa Networks
Best Heavy Business Broadband: Zen Internet
Best Sumo Business Broadband: Telewest Business Essentials
Best Uncontended Service: Zen Internet
Best Streaming Service: Groovy Gecko
Best Hosting Provider: UKFast
The trade body said it had chosen the UK for its role in seeking the data retention laws without considering the impact on net providers and telecoms operators.

A Home Office spokesman told the BBC News website that a lot of work had been done with the industry to address concerns about the measures.

In a meeting with Ispa in January, Home Secretary Charles Clarke said he wanted to work with the industry on this legislation.

But he also stressed the importance of the measures.

"Agreement on retaining communications data places a vital tool against terrorism and serious crime in the hands of law enforcement agencies across Europe," he told Ispa on 10 January.

"Modern criminality crosses borders and seeks to exploit digital technology. The measure is an important step in delivering the right to citizens across the EU to live in peace and free from the negative impact of terrorism and serious crime."

Net heroes

By contrast, Ispa singled out the All Party Parliamentary Internet Group (APIG) as its internet hero of the year.

It bestowed the honour on the MPs for their work on updating the Computer Misuse Act to take account of 21st Century computer crime.

In particular, they called for denial of service attacks to be made a specific crime.

These attacks have become a common practice for extortionists who threaten to cripple websites with a deluge of data unless a ransom is paid.

The group of MPs also recommended an increase in the length of jail sentences for hackers.


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