On 6 July 2012 a Joint Parliamentary Committee launched its inquiry into the controversial draft Communications Data Bill. This draft Bill, dubbed the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’, requires internet service providers to store records of internet usage in the UK for up to one year, to be provided to police and intelligence services (including overseas investigators) on request.
The data stored would include:
- Records of messages sent and received by email and through webmail
- Which internet sites have been visited and by which address
- Details of who spoke to who on Skype and other voice calls over the internet
- Data sent and received over Facebook and other social media sites and online gaming.
The records would include the time, duration, originator and recipient of a communication in addition to the location of the device from which it is made. It would not include the content of the messages, voice calls or websites accessed, and officers would still need a warrant in order to access this information.
The Government has justified the Bill as being necessary and proportionate for crime detection, punishment and to protect the public. However the proposals seem very intrusive, pose a threat to our privacy and do much more than maintain existing powers. There is also some doubt over their effectiveness; cyber criminals are always quick to adapt and find other ways to communicate.
The Parliamentary Committee now wants to hear the public’s thoughts on this draft edition and has invited written evidence to be submitted by 23 August 2012. The Committee will consider how the Bill would affect the right to a private life and any effects it might have on attracting business from overseas communications providers. The costs of the Bill, which are estimated to be in the region of £1.8 billion over the next ten years, will also be debated.
The full text of the draft Bill can be found here.