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Society attacks draft Communications Data Bill

Proposals are highly intrusive, Wooton says

15 June 2012

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The Law Society has joined the chorus of disapproval that greeted the publication this week of the draft Communications Data Bill.

The bill would enable the home secretary to require communications service providers to retain data that they would not otherwise keep for business reasons.

The police, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, HMRC and the intelligence services would be allowed to access the data, where it was necessary and proportionate.

Civil liberty groups and ISPs have criticised the draft bill, described by some as a ‘snooper’s charter’.

John Wooton, president of the society, said the proposals were “highly intrusive” and raised legal and technical concerns.

“The plans, if enacted, will mean organisations being compelled to collect information about their users that they wouldn’t have previously had a reason to capture, using technology mandated by and for the purposes of the Home Office,” Wooton said.

“There are practical concerns with the provisions as well. They must be workable and proportionate.

“However, the Information Commissioner’s Office has, for example, already pointed out that in order to ensure the security and destruction of retained personal information it will need enhanced powers and additional resources. Such practical considerations are fundamental to making a reality of legal rights.”

Publishing the bill this week, home secretary Theresa May said: “Communications data saves lives. It is a vital tool for the police to catch criminals and to protect children.

“If we stand by as technology changes we will leave police officers fighting crime with one hand tied behind their backs.

“Checking communications records, not content, is a crucial part of day-to-day policing and the fingerprinting of the modern age. We are determined to ensure its continued availability in cracking down on crime.”

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