Skip to the content

‘Snoopers charter’ back on the agenda



Conservative election victory paves the way for data retention legislation previously blocked by LibDems

PROPOSALS to require internet firms to store the records of their customers' internet data will be revived following the Conservative election victory - but not yet.

No.10 indicated that the so-called "snoopers' charter" - blocked by the Liberal Democrats in the last parliament - will be brought back now the coalition is history. The legislation would require internet firms to store records of every website visited by subscribers in the past 12 months, as well as their use of social media.

It is designed to bring data retention into line with existing surveillance, which only records the date, time and location of phone calls and emails.

The Communications Data Bill, as it was known, was killed by Nick Clegg with Labour support last year on the grounds that it would infringe privacy. The move angered many Conservatives, who are now clear to forge ahead with the crackdown, having already launched a review to bolster their case earlier this year.

In January, the prime minister said: "I think we cannot allow modern forms of communication to be exempt from the ability, in extremis, with a warrant signed by the home secretary, to be exempt from being listened to."

He added: "Tackling this poisonous death cult, this extremist narrative of the violent Islamist extremists, is something for all of us to do."

Emergency stopgap

But there is no rush, because emergency legislation was rushed through Parliament last year to maintain existing powers while argument raged.

It requires phone and internet firms to store emails and phone calls for 12 months and allow the police and security services investigating serious crimes to find out whom a person spoke to and when - but not the content of their communication.Internet and phone companies, mainly in the US, had warned they would otherwise start deleting such records, following a ruling in April by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that privacy was being infringed.

The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 (known as DRIP) does not expire until December 31, 2016. Therefore, an immediate counter-terrorism Bill - to be included in this month's Queen's Speech - will instead include plans to restrict individuals trying to radicalise young people. The 'extremism disruption orders' - also blocked by the Liberal Democrats - will give the police powers to apply to the high court for an order to restrict the "harmful activities" of someone judged to be extremist.

The bill will also contain plans for banning orders for extremist organisations which seek to undermine democracy, or use hate speech, but fall short of banning on the grounds of provoking hatred.

Image: Electronic Frontier Foundation graphic, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 through Wikimedia.

Register For Alerts

Keep informed - Get the latest news about the use of technology, digital & data for the public good in your inbox from UKAuthority.