The new Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill

Last week, the UK Government published emergency legislation designed to allow the interception and storage of communications data.  This follows an April decision by the European courts outlawing existing European law.  Communications data is, as the home secretary put it in the limited Parliamentary debate, the ‘who, where, when and how’ of communications, not its content.  As a result of being framed as emergency legislation, there will be limited to no parliamentary debate, and all of the major parties are supporting it.

So, what does this new law do?

First, the law enables the security and law enforcement services to require communications service providers to keep communications data for up to a year, so that (as the home secretary said, the ‘law enforcement agencies can investigate some of the criminality that is planned and takes place online’.

Second, the law requires companies, including those based outside the UK that provide services to UK customers, to cooperate with the law enforcement agencies to gain access to the content of communications made by post or telecommunications.

The new law is controversial: there are questions as to whether it is appropriate to use the ’emergency’ procedure, given the 3 months that have passed since the European judgment; over whether this law is, as the government claims, ‘clarificatory’ or makes new law (I would argue it makes new law); and whether in the manner of it enabling secondary legislation, it significantly broadens the potential scope of the law.

Background:

Click here to view the draft bill.

Click here to view the explanatory notes issued with the draft bill.

Click here to read Home secretary’s statement to Parliament.