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UK Government Puts Broadband ISP Internet Snooping Measure ON HOLD

Friday, February 24th, 2017 (3:57 pm) - Score 10,343

The Government’s effort to force broadband ISPs into logging a much bigger slice of all your Internet activity, irrespective of whether or not you’re even suspected of a crime, has been partially put on hold as a result of last year’s related ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The situation centres around the recently introduced Investigatory Powers Act 2016, which among other things proposed to introduce a highly controversial system that would require ISPs to store (for up to 12 months) comparatively detailed Internet Connection Records (e.g. the websites / servers you’ve visited) for all their customers; this would also be accessible without a warrant (here).

A preliminary Code of Practice, which was published last year, suggested that an ICR’s “core information” will most likely include the customer’s “account reference, a source [Internet Protocol] and port address, a destination IP and port address and a time/date” (details), but some providers may be expected to collect even more than this. NOTE: A full interception warrant would still be required in order to obtain the most detailed information (e.g. the content of your communications).

Simplified Interpretation of an ICR Log

Account ID
Date (Time) Source IP (You)
Destination IP:Port Data Volume URL
1 19/01/2017 (12:01) 800KB omgfakeballz.com
1 19/01/2017 (13:12) 0.2KB ftp.faketest.co.uk
65 19/01/2017 (13:14) 1700KB icanhasyourdata.net

Many people have criticised the ICR system for its blanket approach to mass state surveillance, which is a significant departure from the much more targeted methods of previous laws. However the IPAct’s status was recently cast into doubt, again, after a ruling by the CJEU warned that EU law does not allow “general and indiscriminate retention of traffic data and location data,” except for “targeted” use against “serious crime” (here).

The case is on-going and until this week we’ve had no clear indication from the Government about its potential impact upon the IPAct, but all that changed yesterday when the Government published their Draft Codes of Practice for the IPAct (these are being consulted upon until 6th April 2017). Absent from the draft was any mention of the rules for how ISPs should handle / collect ICRs and, thanks to Arstechnica, we now know why.

Government Statement:

“The European Court of Justice handed down a judgement relating to the UK’s communications data regime in December. The matter must now be considered by the domestic courts and the consultation on the communications data code of practice has been deferred until this has taken place.”

At the very least this will give broadband ISPs and mobile operators a little more time to consider the implications of the IPAct and perhaps a dash of hope that the Government might be forced to water down their legislation, which in a single move has seen the United Kingdom adopt one of the most extreme state surveillance laws of any Western democracy.

Lest we forget that personal privacy is a founding tenant of most democracies because it helps to shield the people, as well as political opponents and journalists etc., from abuse by Governments that hold too much power.  Take that protection away and all it takes is one bad leader to screw up the freedoms that so many millions have died to protect.

However it’s worth remembering that even if the Government is forced to water down the law then the future impact of Brexit could conceivably result in mass surveillance being reintroduced further down the road. Mind you the CJEU states that any data being retained must be kept within the EU, which adds another complication. Time will tell. We’re currently awaiting a date for the next round of the court battle.

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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.
Leave a Comment
9 Responses
  1. Sledgehammer says:

    Will anyone using a VPN cause their ISP problems trying to collect the data required by the above act?

    1. DavyD says:

      If by that you mean by that the ISP can’t collect the data required then no.

    2. Chris says:


      Maybe I didn’t understand your post? A VPN will offer some protection. If you use an end point in another country then there is no way the ISP can log what you are doing. I’m not saying GCHQ and the like could not though – they have means like attacking the client termination equipment. If you use a UK endpoint your ISP will still not be able to see what you are up to but feasibly the end point could be monitored to see anonymous usage data via the provider of the end point. Only with the support of your VPN provider will it be relatively easy to see what you are up to but again this is still not possible for your ISP to do. Some VPNs say they are non-logging so unless logging is started the provider will not be in a position to hand over any useful data to identify you.

      In short a VPN provides you quite a bit of protection which is why I use one. However some sites block VPNs. Recently I had issues with IKEA and Tescos not that either was a major blow to me.


  2. Thanks for bringing us this news. BTW, I think the word you’re looking for is “tenet”, not “tenant”

  3. Marty says:

    I hope this bill does indeed get watered down. Even after Brexit the government shouldn’t be using terrorism as an tool or excuse to enforce mass surveillance by invading privacy of every citizen just to catch suspected criminals.

  4. dragoneast says:

    The Executive v Judiciary battle long predates our entry into the EC, and it will be going on long after Brexit too. The one thing you can guarantee about the Executive arm of Government is that it never learns. There’s always a long waiting list of new idiots ready to take their place.

  5. captain.cretin says:

    I phoned the government for a quote, and got a hours worth of Muzak.

  6. tonyp says:

    Who would want to be a ‘source’ for whistle blowing evidence if your identity can be read by those in power? No government likes a ‘free’ press! Pravda anyone? Private Eye would be a waste of money too. So it will be back to clandestine meetings in smokey (?) bars and clubs for face to face exchange of info. Dead letter boxes and pamphlets produced on a Roneo machine to avoid electronic/social media. Hmmmmm…..

    I really do worry for the future as more and more surveillance and restrictions are put in place, in our name, to ‘protect’ us from bad people out there. That and regulators that are afraid to regulate.

    1. timeless says:

      lets face it, these plans arent about terrorism they are about control of information, and information is power to those who have access to the largest chunk of it.

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