UK to adopt emergency legislation to enable retention of telecoms data

The United Kingdom government announced on 10 July that that it will introduce emergency legislation to retain access to telecommunications data. The government is justifying its decision on the need to fight terrorism.

The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill would force mobile and landline providers and ISPs to store details of their customers' phone calls, text messages and emails for a maximum of 12 months. The Bill would replace the Data Retention Regulations 2009, and clarify the circumstances under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) in which a warrant can be issued.

This highly unusual and much criticised move is a reaction to the scrapping of the EU Data Retention Directive. The European Court of Justice’s ruling on the Directive stated that routine collection of location data, and the retention of that data for six months, was a severe intrusion of privacy and must be stopped. This new law would have a wide-reaching impact as it would allow the United Kingdom government to impose sanctions and penalties on overseas Internet and phone companies anywhere in the world if they refuse to comply with an interception warrant.

The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill will be given its first reading on today, with the aim of rushing it through all House of Commons stages on Tuesday 15 July 2014.