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Joint Parliamentary Committee Could “Kill” the UK ISP Internet Snooping Bill

Thursday, September 27th, 2012 (8:23 am) - Score 734
spying on uk ISP internet traffic

The Joint Parliamentary Committee that is responsible for scrutinising the controversial Draft Communications Data Bill, which seeks to expand existing internet snooping laws by forcing ISPs into creating a bigger and more accessible log of your online activity, will according to one MP attempt to “kill the bill” because it “simply can’t work“.

Committee member Dr Julian Huppert (Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge) warned yesterday that the current measures were simply “far too broad” and didn’t work technically. Huppert is understood to have told a fringe meeting at this week’s LibDem conference that the committee’s report will say that the language and “whole concept of the bill” itself are “wrong” and must be started again.

The MP is also understood to have taken a swipe at the current home secretary, Theresa May, whom is alleged to have said that all the companies (i.e. including ISPs) involved with the bill are “entirely happy” with it. But a recently published summary of all the written evidence submitted to the government’s inquiry clearly contradicts such a perspective, with many being decidedly unhappy about both its costs and technical feasibility.

Gary, Zen Internet’s Regulatory Manager, said this week:

If this Bill goes through parliament as it currently stands ISPs will have to collect a lot more data and retain it for a period of 12 months for a much broader range of services e.g. mobile phones, PDAs, 3rd party email and social networking services. This Bill significantly extends any existing capabilities in that it would require us to retain data that we would otherwise not retain for business purposes and to capture and retain data about services we neither own nor operate.

Zen like many other ISPs recognises the reasons for doing this especially in relation to criminal activities but the lack of visibility of what this would likely entail within the Bill does not sit well with us nor does it answer many of the questions we and other ISPs, as well as trade bodies, have asked for clarification on to date. We need the Home Office to assure us and the ISP industry that this whole process is going to be clear and proportionate.”

Gary later commented that “the Comms data bill has to be one of the most worrying developments that has hit the ISP industry in years“. Meanwhile the Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat Leader, Nick Clegg, later praised Huppert for the “superb job” he is doing in scrutinising the bill. Clegg added, “if the problems raised by the joint committee looking at it cannot be addressed then the Bill would not go ahead.”

Dr Julian Huppert said:

It’s an honour and responsibility to be asked to play such a key role on this very serious issue. This Bill has huge implications for the way we access, collect and use data. We must not give ministers or anyone else broader powers to snoop on the public and we can only do that if we have tighter controls.

I will be advising Nick Clegg that we cannot allow this to become a Bill or be presented to Parliament, unless these concerns are addressed, and the draft massively rewritten to protect civil liberties.”

In fairness the LibDem’s once called for the equally controversial 2010 Digital Economy Act (DEAct) to be repealed and that never happened. Similarly there are only two LibDem’s on the committee with the rest being largely pro-bill Labour and Conservative MP’s. However even Huppert admits that there is a need to extend some of the existing powers and will look to “salvage” parts of it, although he didn’t specify precisely which bits.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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5 Responses
  1. Avatar Bob2002

    Labour were obsessed with Internet snooping, the Conservatives are obsessed with Internet snooping, I doubt the LibDems will be able to hold out forever.

  2. Surprising how stories like this usually get ironed over by the mainstream TV media, which is spending more time covering DC’s appearance on an American talk show. In fact I’ve seen very little about the comms data bill come up on televised news.

    • Avatar dragoneast

      It’s all about the visuals innit? There’s a limited photo library of that Julian bloke!

    • Avatar Timeless

      actually that could be said about allot of things.. l dont want to turn this political but the NHS reform and welfare reforms are a good example.. not one real report on the fact that 39 disabled ppl a week are committing suicide after loosing their benefits or the fact that ppls health is going downhill because less and less operations are happening in an effort to save money at the cost of ones health.

      suffice to say, no one really cares they bury their heads in the sand and hope someone votes someone better in next time.. but then the worst part about it is we live in an age of greed where more £££ seems more important than someones life.

  3. Avatar cyclope

    That’s the problem greed,corporate greed those in government mainly don’t care about us, they are not bothered about poverty most have never come close to experiencing it, But instead they wage war basically upon those who are poor/vulnerable,We could fight them and win, if only we stood united Because we don’t they win every time by the divide & conquer approach,

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