After leaks by Edward Snowden the level of data harvesting by GCHQ has been at the forefront of the news. Privacy and protection of personal data has become a major concern for individuals and large corporations alike. The UK government is moving quickly to quash the effects a European ruling will have on accessing and storing our data.
A European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling earlier this year looked to change the ability to hold and store that data. Ruling that communications service providers (CSP’s) were not at liberty to adhere to the 2006 Data Retention Directive, meaning that they didn’t have to store data of its customer’s activity for anywhere up to 24 months.
The emergency data law is mainly aimed at these communications companies to bring clarity to their position. The fear is that CSPs might start deleting communications data. Such data being of paramount importance in the security agencies fight against terrorism. Prime Minster David Cameron said if the information were to be deleted, or no longer collected, it would seriously impede the UK’s ability to fight crime and protect the country against terrorism.
Set to run until 2016, when the law will be reviewed. There will be outlines for the legal obligation of the collection of all communications data by CSP’s. Data collected will include when calls were made, what numbers were dialled, and other information that can be used. However it does not include the content of the communications. Security agencies will still need a warrant to access this data.
A warrant would need to be signed by the foreign secretary, the home secretary, the secretary of state for Northern Ireland, the defence secretary or the cabinet secretary for justice for Scotland. So would not be easy to obtain for other than those of paramount importance.
This will all be overlooked by a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. To advise the government policy on counterterrorism. Producing a report aimed at bringing transparency to the government’s actions and access to communications. Following such a move by Facebook, Google and Apple. The report will detailing the number and type of requests made to communication firms.
This doesn’t mean that the government will be able to listen to your calls, and read your emails. Not more than they are already able to anyway.The data that will be stored is simply who you are contacting and when. There will be no content stored or intercepted without a warrant. And the amount of organisations that could have this type of access is being reduced.
However this does not cover any monitoring activities carried out by the UK’s intelligence agency, GCHQ. They are free to intercept and store huge amounts of information about citizens’ online activity. They are not governed by this shake up of data interception. This is to improve investigations in to smaller crimes and back up alibis given by suspects.
It’s clear there are privacy concerns with the interception and storing of vast amounts of personal data. However the latest move is to improve the image and transparency of such acts. Matching similar moves by big businesses to be open and honest about your data. As well as ensuring that the essential data is still captured to aid in anti-terrorism investigations.