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Whitehall assigns telcos £6m for data retention

Warwick Ashford

The government has allocated £6m to help UK telecoms providers comply with data retention legislation coming into effect on 1 October.

The subsidy, to be made available through the Home Office, is aimed at quashing fears that telecoms companies will have to incur additional costs to retain mobile and fixed line phone call data for a year under legislation passed by parliament in July.

The UK legislation is being introduced to enact last year's European data retention directive, which requires member states to retain traffic and location data on telephone conversations to assist law enforcement officers in tackling crime.

Despite speculation that many companies will have to invest in additional software or hardware to comply with the data retention regulations, most UK telecoms companies appear to be well prepared, according to the Home Office and industry representatives.

"The UK telecoms industry has operated a voluntary code of data retention for some years now, which means the new legislation is not going to make that great a difference in terms of what we retain," said Jack Wraith, co-chairman of the Association of Chief Police Officers data communications group.

Wraith said most telecoms companies already had the necessary infrastructure in place to retain call data, and it would be "business as usual" after 1 October. He said telecoms providers should not spend any money on data retention without consulting the Home Office.

The only difference now was that all companies would retain the same data for the same period of time, rather than setting their own standards as they had in the past, Wraith said.

The new data retention legislation does not apply to records of internet communications.


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