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FIPR Press Release - Parliamentary enquiry rejects data retention

FOR IMMEDIATE USE : 28 January 2003

FIPR has welcomed the publication of a report by a group of MPs and Peers that rejects the need for data retention.

The All Party Internet Group (APIG) has today published a report on its inquiry into Communications Data -- the logging information held by phone companies, mobile operators and Internet service providers. This data shows who we have all been calling and e-mailing, which websites we have visited, and even where we have been with our mobile phones. The report examines current Government plans for the logging data to be retained and rejects them completely, branding them impractical.

The inquiry looked at the retention scheme proposed in the Anti-Terrorism Crime & Security Act 2001 (ATCS) which would have meant that logging data was kept for up to twelve months. It concluded that the Government had underestimated the costs of the scheme, that billing databases would migrate abroad to escape regulation and that there were few incentives for industry to help the government track technical change. To cap all this, the scheme appeared to be in breach of Human Rights legislation and despite a year of effort by the Home Office, no solution was in sight.

The evidence heard by the inquiry made it clear that the proposed voluntary ATCS scheme had no hope of acceptance by industry. The report also concludes that it would be impractical to proceed with the fallback of mandatory data retention and strongly recommends that the Home Office scrap their plans altogether and start negotiations on a lower impact scheme of targeted "data preservation" instead.

The inquiry also looked at the access to communications data under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) and why it had not yet been brought into force. Law Enforcement had controversially argued the current scheme was not human rights compliant, but although the report recommended a change to the RIPA regime, it did not agree it was vitally urgent to do so. The report also concluded that the definitions of communications data in RIPA were inadequate and ought to be improved. It also recommended that the Home Office amend RIPA to provide explicit penalties for anyone who used the system without authorisation.

The inquiry finally looked at which authorities should be given access to communications data under RIPA. This caused a furore last summer, with Home Secretary David Blunkett backing down and admitting "we got it wrong". The report comes to no conclusions on this, deferring to an imminent Home Office public consultation. However, it does recommend that all existing powers in "legacy legislation" to access communications data should be withdrawn, leaving only the RIPA regime.

FIPR Director Ian Brown said: "Data retention would be a gross invasion of all of our privacy. It would also be extremely costly, ineffective against terrorism, and illegal under human rights law. We hope the Home Office will take the inquiry's advice and drop the whole idea."

Contacts for enquiries:

Ian Brown Director Foundation for Information Policy Research ian@fipr.org

Notes for editors

  1. The Foundation for Information Policy Research (www.fipr.org), is a non-profit think-tank for Internet and Information Technology policy, governed by an independent Board of Trustees with an Advisory Council of experts.
     
  2. The inquiry's report can be read at:
    http://www.apig.org.uk/APIGreport.pdf
  3. FIPR's evidence to the inquiry is at:
    http://www.apig.org.uk/fipr.pdf
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