The UK Government has just published is proposed Communications Data Bill, a new regulatory framework refreshing the old Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to ensure law enforcement agencies maintain the ability to tackle crime and terrorism as criminals use modern technology and new ways of communicating to plan and commit crime.
The main point of concern already being raised is that the powers will ensure that all data communication sent via mobile phones, emails and other Internet based means will be recorded for all citizens, and stored for a period of time.
Whilst tracking and storage of all communications might actually be necessary to identify those elements of society undertaking or planning to undertake criminal or terrorist activity, the safeguards that are to be in place to ensure the privacy of the law abiding citizen is protected, are not detailed enough to close this debate.
The publication website offers the following summary on the proposed bill, that new legislation will help ensure police can stay a step ahead of the criminals. But it will not:
- enable unfettered access by the police to data about everyone’s communications
- provide the police and others with powers to intercept and read your emails, phone calls or check your contacts lists
- create a single government database containing your emails and phone calls to which the police and agencies can get unlimited and unregulated access
- weaken current safeguards or checks in place to protect communications data
- allow local authorities greater powers
The site goes on to provide commentary from a number of senior law enforcement professionals under the heading “protecting the public”, including:
- Association of Chief Police Officers crime head Jon Murphy chief constable of Merseyside Police
- Child Exploitation & Online Protection Chief Executive Peter Davies
- SOCA Director General Trevor Pearce
One cannot help that an additional heading entitled “Protecting the Publics Privacy” with statement from the likes of the Information Commissioner and perhaps one or two privacy pressure groups on the basis of their being briefed and satisfied that privacy controls being implemented in support of the bill would do a lot to head of concern.
Whilst there can be little doubt of the need to ensure investigation and intelligence capabilities need to be able to keep pace with technology developments, however the lack of up-front assurance aimed at addressing what should be reasonably anticipated, specifically concerns on privacy, is somewhat perplexing?