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Draft Communications Bill will be ineffective, says ICO

Warwick Ashford

The UK’s Draft Data Communications Bill – aimed at making it easier for authorities to spy on electronic communications – will be ineffective against terror, says the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham told a special select committee of MPs and peers hearing pre-legislative evidence on the proposed bill that it will catch only incompetent criminals and accidental anarchists.

He said it would have little effect on terrorism and serious organised crime, according to the Guardian.

Christopher Graham said he was not being given the powers or the resources necessary to regulate the proposed new system and ensure the information collected is not abused.

The draft legislation requires internet and other service providers to retain records of all communications for 12 months, including emails, web phone calls and use of social media.

Graham said the controls could easily be evaded by using smaller providers or spending £5 a month on a private network registered overseas and encrypting all traffic.

Data Communications Bill poses data protection risk

Last week, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said the Draft Data Communications Bill would constitute a security risk. Wales told the RSA Conference Europe 2012 the proposed bill will be useless and quite dangerous if enacted.

“It will force many relatively small companies to hang on to data that they would not otherwise retain, which puts the data at risk,” he said. In September, Wales raised these and other concerns before the parliamentary select committee.

Supporters of the Draft Data Communications Bill claim it is necessary to allow law enforcement to act effectively against criminals, terrorists and paedophiles who use these communication channels.

But Wales contended the legislation is redundant. Authorities can and do get any information they need to support investigations from internet service providers such as Facebook, Twitter and Wikipedia.

Wales said he believed the security risk posed by smaller companies archiving data will drive everyone to encrypt communications, which will make the legislation useless.


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