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Friday, 12 November 2010 11:24

Britain could be jailed for data retention

Written by Nick Farell
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A whole nation doing time
The UK Home Office is about to get dragged into the European Court of Justice over data retention laws in Blighty. For the Home office a rapid review of its Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) has been undertaken and the UK government is rushing through a consultation document to try to head off a potentially expensive court case brought by the EC.

Changes to RIPA has been online but responses must arrive before December 7. Apparently the EU gave the government two months to take action in October. Under the new plan there would be civil sanctions even against unintentional interception of customer communications. The Interception of Communications Commissioner (IoCC) would gain powers to act against ISPs and telecom carriers.

The IoCC would be able to impose fines of up to £10,000 for unintentional interception. If the breach was shown to be intentional, the penalty could be a prison term of up to two years upon conviction.
The idea is to make the enforcement process more streamlined and reduce the administrative burden on the police, the CPS and courts.

The EC is miffed that the UK government’s lack of action to seal the loopholes in RIPA have allowed BT to snoop on customers using Phorm’s advertising profiling software. With the changes to the rules, Phorm would be outlawed and BT would be in trouble for using it to snoop on customers.

Under EC regulations, consent for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to intercept user communications must be “freely-given, specific and informed” as this was not the case in BT’s use of Phorm, RIPA has been held to be at fault and the Commission requested action which has yet to be taken.

This delay prompted the EC to threaten court proceedings but the issuance of the consultation document may stay the Commission’s hand. If not, the government could be fined millions of Euros for every day that the legal loopholes exist.

Nick Farell

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