‘Emergency’ Communications Monitoring Law to be Rushed Through

News Article - Thursday, 10 July 2014 10:48

By: Kerry Butters Category: Security

The UK government is set to rush through a new law designed to allow enforcement and intelligence agencies to continue to access phone and internet data in order to investigate crime.

The Data Retention and Investigation Powers Bill is being backed by all of the major parties and is being passed due to two recent developments. The European Court of Justice recently "struck down” regulations which forced ISPs and mobile companies to retain customer data for up to 12 months. This means that telecoms companies are now likely to begin deleting this data as they are no longer legally required to retain it.

The second issue surrounds calls for a clearer legal framework "to underpin their cooperation with law enforcement and intelligence agencies to intercept what terrorists and serious criminals are saying to each other.”

"It is the first duty of government to protect our national security and to act quickly when that security is compromised. As events in Iraq and Syria demonstrate, now is not the time to be scaling back on our ability to keep our people safe. The ability to access information about communications and intercept the communications of dangerous individuals is essential to fight the threat from criminals and terrorists targeting the UK,” Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement .

Nick Clegg said that the new laws were not an "excuse for more power”, nor were they a part of a new "snooper’s charter”.

The bill will include a clause which means that it will have to be looked at again in 2016 by the next government and in the meantime, a review will be held on the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act in order for recommendations to be made on future reform.

A senior diplomat will also be appointed in order to undertake discussions with the US and internet companies to establish a new international data sharing agreement.

It’s very unusual for laws to be passed as quickly as it’s proposed this should be and this is bound to cause concern for privacy groups and for MPs, who some fear won’t have the time to properly understand the bill.

Jim Killock, director of the Open Rights Group  said that the government know that there’s "no legal basis” for forcing ISPs to retain customer data and that it is using the threat of terrorism "as an excuse for getting this law passed”.

"Not only will the proposed legislation infringe our right to privacy, it will also set a dangerous precedent where the government simply re-legislates every time it disagrees with a decision by the European Court of Justice," he said.

Senior Labour MP Tom Watson called the bill a "stich up” and accused party leaders of cutting a "secret deal”.

"There hasn't been a bill published, we find out this morning when Parliament is on a one-line whip and MPs are in their constituencies that next week they will railroad through emergency legislation," he told BBC Radio 4's Today.

"If you are an MP, you probably shouldn't bother turning up for work next week because what you think doesn't really matter. They are ramping up the rhetoric on it but no one in civic society has a chance to form a view on this or lobby their MP or talk to them about it.

"I understand that Labour's shadow cabinet is seeing it this morning. They've not had a chance to think about it yet."

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