Categorized | Civil Liberties

Snooper’s Charter?

Snooper’s Charter?

The Home Office recently published a consultation document and draft regulations to implement a European Directive requiring the retention of electronically generated data. The consultation document states that this is “to enable public authorities to undertake their lawful activities to investigate, detect and prosecute crime and to protect the public.” It goes on to say “the term communications data does not refer to the content of communications. It’s about:

  • Who is communicating with whom?
  • When and where are they communicating?
  • What type of communication is it?”

In the aftermath of the July 2005 London bombings, the then Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, took the lead in securing the Directive, which specifically places the provisions in the context of the EC’s “declaration condemning the terrorist attacks on London”. So far so good, but in implementing the requirements the Government is going way beyond terrorist offences. The catch-all provisions of the 2000 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act mean that access to personal internet and text data will be available to all public bodies licensed under that Act. According to the ‘Guardian’ “this means that hundreds of public bodies including local councils, health authorities, the Food Standards Agency, the Health and Safety Commission and even the education standards watchdog will be able to require telecommunications companies to hand over the personal data”.

Opposition spokesmen have condemned these requirements as a “snooper’s charter”, but the Home Office loftily declares “we consider that these measures are a proportionate interference with individuals’ right to privacy to ensure protection of the public.” The recent track record of public bodies in protecting sensitive data gives little cause for confidence.

If you want to contribute to the debate you have until 31 October. For the full text of the consultation paper, the EU Directive and the draft regulations see http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/cons-2008-transposition?view=Binary

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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