Government publishes draft Communications Data Bill

The draft Communications Data Bill would give intelligence services and the police new, extensive powers to monitor communications data (subscriber data, use data and traffic data). While RIPA (The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) already allows for law enforcement agencies to intercept phone, Internet or email communications in some circumstances, the government says that the existing powers are not strong enough to tackle terrorism and serious crime. A new element in the proposals is that Internet and phone service providers would need to retain records of every user's phone, Internet and email use, and it is proposed that this would also apply to Facebook, Skype etc.

A joint parliamentary committee will be set up to scrutinise the draft Bill before it is submitted to the normal parliamentary process. The draft Bill has already faced tough opposition and could clash with the Human Rights Act.

An ICO spokesperson said: “Ultimately, it is for Parliament to determine whether or not the proposals contained in the draft Bill are a proportionate response to the perceived problem of communications data capability. The Information Commissioner will contribute to the Joint Committee's consideration of the draft Bill and, in particular, the adequacy of the proposed safeguards and limitations. If the Information Commissioner is to be in a position to ensure compliance with the Data Protection Act, in respect of security of retained personal information and its destruction after 12 months, the ICO will need appropriately enhanced powers and the necessary additional resources.”

The draft Bill was published on 14 June.

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