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Friday, January 09, 2009

Big EU brother

The Government has announced that from 15 March, the UK's internet service providers (ISPs) will have to start collecting and storing details of all their customers' email and other electronic communication for a year.

Not only that but the Government may end up paying the ISPs up to £75m to ensure the law is obeyed. The data will be accessible to more than 600 public bodies, such as the police and councils, if they make a valid request.

It's scary stuff.

The BBC has some strong reactions from the likes of Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, who said: "The thing we have to worry about is what happens next because the government is already mooting plans not just to leave this stuff with the providers but to create a central government database where they hold all the information."

The Earl of Northesk, a Conservative peer on the House of Lords science and technology committee, said it meant anyone's movements could be traced 24 hours a day. "This degree of storage is equivalent to having access to every second, every minute, every hour of your life," he said. "People have to worry about the scale, the virtuality of your life being exposed to about 500 public authorities."

And what's at the root of all this? The EU's Data Retention Directive - otherwise known as Directive 2006/24/EC

It looks like the Government has already postponed it for as long as possible, but now has to enforce it. According to Article 15:

"Until 15 March 2009, each Member State may postpone application of this Directive to the retention of communications data relating to Internet Access, Internet telephony and Internet e-mail. Any Member State that intends to make use of this paragraph shall, upon adoption of this Directive, notify the Council and the Commission to that effect by way of a declaration. The declaration shall be published in the Official Journal of the European Union."

What's a bit surprising, is that this particular initiative was thought by many to have been shelved, when the Data Communications Bill, partly designed to enact the Directive, was axed from the Queen's Speech in November. It's currently only a 'Draft Bill', and is not scheduled. Maybe they have squeezed this bit into another piece of legislation, such as the Policing and Crime Bill, while no-one was looking...

Can anyone tell us more?

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