Data collection u-turn angers privacy campaigners

Human rights groups have reacted angrily to news of a government u-turn on data retention rules.

Data collection u-turn angers privacy campaigners

Hidden in the depths of the Government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review released this week were plans to strengthen officials’ ability to access data on email, phone and web traffic already collated by service providers under European guidelines.

ISPs are required to keep log records for twelve months, but civil rights and privacy groups believe the government plans to revisit controversial plans laid out by the previous Government.

The proposals could require service providers to take a more hands-on approach, potentially building up user profiles.

The terrifying ambitions of a group of senior Whitehall technocrats must not trump personal privacy

“We will introduce a programme to preserve the ability of the security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies to obtain communication data and to intercept communications within the appropriate legal framework,” the Government said in its review.

“This programme is required to keep up with changing technology and to maintain capabilities that are vital to the work these agencies do to protect the public.”

Security officials have said they were worried about not being able to monitor traffic in messaging services within Facebook and other social networks, for example.

“We will legislate to put in place the necessary regulations and safeguards to ensure that our response to this technology challenge is compatible with the Government’s approach to information storage and civil liberties,” the proposal said.

The announcement flies in the face of the Coalition Agreement, published shortly after the Government came into power.

That document promised to “end the storage of internet and email records without good reason”, and the reversal has angered campaigners.

“One of the early and welcome promises of the new Government was to ‘end the blanket storage of internet and email records’,” said Isabella Sankey, policy director of rights group Liberty.

“Any move to amass more of our sensitive data and increase powers for processing would amount to a significant u-turn,” Sankey said. “The terrifying ambitions of a group of senior Whitehall technocrats must not trump the personal privacy of law-abiding Britons.”

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