Monday, December 20, 2010

Updating the UK's communications law framework

The UK government has been consulting over amendments to communications law as a result of recent EU activity. I've contributed to two consultation responses regarding lawful interception and the EU Electronic Communications Framework. Thanks to colleagues Judith Rauhofer and Chris Marsden, who did most of the drafting!

1. On amendments to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, we emphasised that "it is unlikely that one regime that requires the Interception of Communications Commissioner to maintain complete secrecy will be able productively to coexist with another regime that by definition must strive for the utmost transparency."

2. On the e-Comms framework, we wrote that the government needs to pay more attention to the issue of network neutrality. We were mildly horrified at the idea that these regulations should be used to create a new requirement for electronic communications services “to have a procedure in place to be able to respond to request for information from the police or security services”:
Provisions regulating access by public authorities to information held by communication service providers (usually communications/traffic data and intercepted electronic communications) are already included in the Acquisition and Disclosure of Communications Data Code of Practice and the Interception of Communications Code of Practice brought into force under section 71 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2001 (“RIPA”). They cover in some detail the steps which service providers must take in order to assist public authorities in relation to information disclosure requests. It therefore questionable whether additional provisions governing the modalities of data transfers from communications services providers to public authorities are necessary in practice.

There is more information on this last point in my recent article Communications Data Retention in an Evolving Internet.

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