British lawmakers bring back UK data retention

The British upper house has passed a bill that will allow UK data retention laws to stay in place after the European Court of Justice threw out the previous law.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor on

The United Kingdom's data retention laws, labelled as emergency legislation, has cleared the House of Lords after two days of debate, the BBC reports.

On Wednesday the bills were pushed through the UK House of Commons, following an April ruling by the European Court of Justice that existing data retention laws across Europe breached citizen's right to privacy.

At the same time that the House of Lords was debating the legislation, the United Nations Human Rights Council said that forcing telecommunications companies to retain customer data on behalf of law enforcement agencies should be measured, not by its impact to targets, but by the impact on the general population.

"Mass or 'bulk' surveillance programs may thus be deemed to be arbitrary, even if they serve a legitimate aim and have been adopted on the basis of an accessible legal regime," the council said.

"Mandatory third-party data retention — a recurring feature of surveillance regimes in many states, where governments require telephone companies and internet service providers to store metadata about their customers' communications and locations for subsequent law enforcement and intelligence agency access — appears neither necessary nor proportionate."

However, during debate in the Commons, UK Home Secretary Theresa May backed the need to reinstate data retention.

"Without these capabilities we run the risk that murderers will not get caught, terrorist plots will go undetected, drug traffickers will go unchallenged, child abusers will not be stopped, and slave drivers will continue in the appalling trade in human beings," she said.

Australian Attorney-General George Brandis admitted this week that data retention is under active consideration by the Australian government, but that it would not rush to introduce similar legislation.

"The public are entitled to be reassured that their government will put the security and safety of the Australian people foremost, but they're also entitled to be assured that in making policy choices and reforming laws, governments behave in a careful and considered manner, and not in a hasty or reactive manner," he said.

"We haven't approached this in a hasty way."

This week though, Brandis introduced legislation into the Australian Senate that would give ASIO the power to hack third-party computers attached to networks upon which an ASIO target is suspected to be connected.

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