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UK ISP Internet Snooping Confusion Reigns Over 2013 Queens Speech

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013 (12:28 pm) - Score 959

Is it or isn’t it still alive? The State Opening of Parliament took place this morning and everybody was watching to, among other things, see if the UK government’s hugely controversial internet snooping legislation (Communications Data Bill) was still alive. The result.. confusion.

The bill itself threatened to force ISPs into logging a much bigger slice of your online activity (here), which could then be shared in real-time with pre-approved public bodies / security services and might also require some form of central database (i.e. through the “request filter“). All this was intended to take place irrespective of whether or not you’ve ever committed a crime.

Heavy criticism forced the first draft to be rewritten (here) but this too was recently blocked by the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg (here). Apparently the revised bill still threatened to go too far, which left Clegg to state that, “It certainly isn’t going to happen with Liberal Democrats in Government“. Later the Home Office clarified that “discussions on the bill are ongoing” and told journalists to wait and see if it appears in the speech.

But officially speaking the Communications Data Bill did not appear in today’s Queens Speech, yet this was quickly met with a mixture of both confusion and bewilderment after the Queen appeared to make a clear reference to it as part of her address.

The Queen said:

My government will continue to reduce crime and protect national security. Legislation will be introduced to reform the way in which offenders are rehabilitated in England and Wales.

Legislation will be brought forward to introduce new powers to tackle anti-social behaviour, cut crime and further reform the police.

In relation to the problem of matching internet protocol addresses, my government will bring forward proposals to enable the protection of the public and the investigation of crime in cyberspace.”

In other words the Comms Data Bill doesn’t appear to exist anymore but the government still have tentative plans for something similar. The Lib Dem councillor for Barwell, Mathew Hulbert, was quick to add that they “won’t allow it” to come back.

Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group, said:

This is fantastic news, but we know the Home Office won’t give up their plans easily. Plus EU data retention laws means innocent people’s Internet communications are already stored without suspicion. These laws are being challenged in European courts, so we are hoping for further positive changes to protect our privacy.”

Never the less doubts will surely remain until the Home Office are able to clarify their position. Meanwhile the government has only confirmed that it’s “looking at ways of addressing this issue with CSPs” and that “may involve legislation“.

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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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