UK government welcomes report about data retention

By EDRi · February 27, 2004

The UK Government has given a guarded welcome to a review of its data
retention powers. The review came from the Newton Committee, which was
set up by the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 that created
these powers.

The Committee, even though empowered to revoke some powers, supports the principle of data retention for up to a year. The review recommends some changes to the form of the legislation, widening the scope from fighting terrorism to the more general area of serious crime.

The Government has just published a response to this review, which agrees
with the proposal to move retention from anti-terrorism to general
legislation. It suggests that the most appropriate location for the
powers would be in an addition to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers
Act 2000, which already governs access by authorities to stored
communications data. This would bring retention of data under the same
oversight regime as access, which is controversially regulated by the
Interception Commissioner. The Committee had suggested instead that the
Information Commissioner be responsible for oversight.

However, the government disagrees that a limit of one year on retention
should be put in primary legislation, arguing that the communications
industry changes too quickly for such a limit to be fixed in this way.
Nor do the authorities promise any concrete action on limiting government access to communications data under other pieces of legislation.

EDRI-members FIPR (Foundation for Information Policy Research) and Privacy
International were disappointed by the Committee’s support for data
retention. FIPR and PI had argued that these powers were an unjustified
invasion into UK citizens’ private lives under the European Convention
on Human Rights. Neither group was surprised that the government
welcomed the Committee’s support for retention whilst rejecting its
calls for even the most minor limits on the powers.

The Government’s response

(Contribution by Ian Brown, EDRI-member FIPR)