EU warns of 'clash' over UK Web monitoring bill

EU warns of 'clash' over UK Web monitoring bill

Summary: A second alarm bell has run in the E.U. over the U.K.'s plans to give near real-time access to Web traffic data. But it's looking increasingly likely that the plans will fall in line with the E.U.'s demands.

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The E.U. Justice Commissioner has warned that a "balancing act" is required to prevent a "clash" with Europe over the U.K.'s draft "snoopers' charter".

Speaking to The Register at a data protection conference on Monday in Luxembourg, Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said the rights of the citizen and society must be preserved:

"You always have to weigh the rights to obligations of the state: one is to preserve the rights of the individual and the other one is to preserve the rights of the society. This is a balancing act; you cannot make them clash."

The Commissioner's spokesperson confirmed the quote was "accurate".

The announced plans would allow the intelligence community --- including domestic service MI5, foreign service MI6, and electronic eavesdropping agency GCHQ --- along with police, the Serious Organised Crime Agency, and the U.K.'s tax authority, access data relating to Web, email and phone traffic.

This so-called "communications data" includes IP addresses and phone numbers of senders and recipients of emails and calls, website addresses, times and dates of communications, and so on.

However, the data contained within --- such as the contents of emails and phone call conversations --- will continue to be stored for 12 months under the bill, but will require a court order or a search warrant signed by the Home Secretary before it can be accessed.

It's not the first time Europe has sounded alarm bells over the draft law, dubbed the Communications Data Bill.

Shortly before HM the Queen announced the bill in her annual speech to the U.K. Parliament, the European Commission warned that the U.K. government's plans to allow the British intelligence services to access Web traffic data in near real-time "would potentially be incompatible" with upcoming European law.

European officials warned that adequate safeguards would have to be included in the draft law to ensure the 'snooping' was limited in scope to prevent widespread abuse of the system.

During the Queen's speech, however, those safeguards were guaranteed with the bill "subject to scrutiny of draft clauses," signaling efforts to comply with E.U. demands.

The new E.U. law, on track to be out by 2014--2015, is a one-size-fits-all approach for all 27 European member states to enable governments to read from the same page. The current Directive in force allows space for interpretation into member states' legal systems, a move that led to conflicts and confusion across borders.

The chances are, however, is that this bill --- while still subject to change --- will fall in line with both current E.U laws on data protection and data retention, as well as the forthcoming new data and privacy laws.

Whether or not the bill makes it through Parliament is another matter entirely.

Image credit: GCHQ via CNET.

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Topics: Collaboration, Browser, Government, Government UK

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6 comments
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  • Will this make UK the biggest store of SPAM on the planet?

    [b]However, the data contained within ??? such as the contents of emails and phone call conversations ??? will continue to be stored for 12 months under the bill, but will require a court order or a search warrant signed by the Home Secretary before it can be accessed.[/b]

    So does this mean an ISP has to hold onto every email for 12 months? Does this mean two copies if someone with a GMail account sends an email to someone with a Hotmail account? And given that most email is SPAM does this not mean that ISPs get to build out huge storage pools to hold SPAM for a year?
    raleighthings
    • Yes, that's right.

      Thanks for the comment!
      zwhittaker
    • How about VPN traffic?

      If I VPN from the US through Europe for privacy and security, who would store the data?
      sporkfighter
  • So what about non ISPs

    I'm in the US so this doesn't really apply to me but now I'm curious.

    I run my own mail server out of my house. I'm self employed. Many of my small business clients also have mail servers in house. As to many large corporations.

    If we/they were in the UK would we be required to hold to on to all emails sent or received from our business?
    raleighthings
    • To expand the question a bit

      Email to sent to xyz@corp.big. Corp.big feeds said email into their SPAM fighting system and decides TODAY that it will be tossed into the bit bucket.

      Under these new UK rules would they have to hold onto said email for 12 months even though it was never delivered to user xyz?

      Have the people advocating any of this thought of any of these issues?
      raleighthings
  • yes

    yes it does this is to so what about non isp's they are spying on us people now and the law can't stop them and i hate to say this but hacker are doing it to
    ttx19