Second draft of £1.8bn Communications Data Bill is delayed until end of March

By Sooraj Shah
15 Feb 2013 View Comments

The second draft of the controversial Communications Data Bill, which aims to allow unparalleled interception of data about UK citizens' online communications and voice calls, is to be released next month.

Further reading

Gary Hough, a member of the Internet Services Providers Association (ISPA) Council, told Computing that although the next draft was due to be published at the end of February, the government had told ISPs in a meeting this week that it would instead be published at the end of March.

Government officials did not state why the delay had occurred, aside from assuring ISPs including Sky, BT and Virgin Media that many issues that were raised by MPs and ISPs would be addressed.

Concerns have been raised by MPs who believe that the bill, dubbed a 'snooper's charter' by critics, represents a huge invasion of privacy that could be exploited by criminals. The inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, also voiced his concerns, claiming that the government plans were "draconian".

Hough, who is also regulatory manager at ISP provider Zen Internet, said a major concern is that those working on the proposal cannot comprehend technical issues.

"I think certainly we have seen a lack of technical understanding from Home Office officials and parliamentary people, which is quite concerning," he said.

"It's very easy to get on the back of law enforcements' needs but they need to start to see the actual work and costs associated with putting in the bill," he added.

According to the draft as it stands, the secretary of state will make sure that appropriate arrangements are put in place to ensure that ISPs will be compensated for their costs.

But Sarah Needham, senior associate at law firm Taylor Wessing, said a lack of further detail begs the question of whether some service providers may still end up out of pocket.

Zen's Hough said it was not just about the costs involved but about the logistics.

"We have to look at operational issues of implementing this, the systems, the staff, the security of the data, the legality of the data from a data protection standpoint and from an EU law standpoint. Even if bigger ISPs have the resources and funding to implement this, it does not mean the rest of the ISPs do," he said.

Lack of transparency

Needham's views on a lack of further detail have been echoed by MPs and the Open Rights Group.

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