The Home Office has now published its responses to the Consultation on
which closed back in October 2008.
This is the extension of mandatory Communications Traffic Data Retention, beyond what would be otherwise permitted under the Principles of Data Protection i.e. another end run around the protections of the weak Data Protection Act 1998, applied to internet access, internet email, and internet telephony.
This was set to be implemented on 15th March this year, 18 months after it was applied to landline and mobile phone telephony, but now the Draft Regulations state that they will come into force on 6th April 2009.
The Summary of the Responses to the Consultation does not include any reassurance for the public, or even anything to indicate that this was anything more than a "going through the motions" consultation exercise.
5. A total of 54 responses were received and the respondents are listed
below. The general reception of the draft Regulations from public communications providers was positive. In particular, there was continued support for the Home Office's pragmatic approach to implementing the Directive in the UK
Many responses were from members of the public opposed to the Directive on principle (24 out of 54 responses). These responses did not distinguish between the Directive and the draft Regulations on which we were consulting
Nonsense - we certainly distinguished between the two.
As is usual with Home Office consultations, they deliberately Ask The Wrong Questions, assuming that the entire policy is going to be implemented, one way or another, when what they should be consulting on is whether aspects of the policy should be rejected altogether as a matter of principle or as a matter of technical complexity and cost to the public.
This Government Response is limited to issues which can be addressed in the Regulations. We would advise respondents whose comments are not directly addressed here to contribute to the forthcoming consultation exercise on how the Government can maintain its communications data capability generally
There is no indication of when the supposed Consultation on the Communications Data Bill, which it is rumoured, will go far, far beyond this EU mandatory Data Retention and snooping, will appear. It was promised "by the end of January 2009", but it is now mid February.
Question 2: Is the data required to be retained specified clearly in the draft regulations? If not, why not and can the specification be clearer?
9. The majority of respondents who had a view on this question considered there was a need for meaning to be given to certain terms and in particular "internet email" and "internet telephony". However, the DRD makes clear in Article 2(1) that the definitions in Directive 95/46/EC, in Directive 2002/21/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 March 2002 on a common regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services (Framework Directive), and in Directive 2002/58/EC (Privacy and Electronic Communications) shall apply. For example the term "email" has the same meaning as "electronic mail" which is given meaning within the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003, transposing Directive 2002/58/EC into UK law. Both terms therefore refer to:
"any text, voice, sound or image message sent over a public electronic communications network which can be stored in the network or in the recipient's terminal equipment until it is collected by the recipient and includes messages sent using a short message service".
10. Some respondents suggested that more technical detail should be provided within the draft Regulations. However, the Government's experience of working with public communications providers under the ATCSA voluntary code of practice and the first phase implementation of the DRD suggests that it is unhelpful to provide a high level of technical detail in the legislation as terms that might be meaningful to one business area, may be completely inappropriate for another or may already be given meaning within other legislation.
To whom, precisely, is specific technical detail "unhelpful" ? Not to the industry, and not to the public.
It is the Home Office's job to state clearly and precisely what technical details are required and which ones are exempt from the regulations.
Unless and until they do state in detail, what exactly is, and what is not to be logged and retained, then all their "cost estimates" in the Impact Assessment are fiction.
This response from the Government is not acceptable.
11. The Home Office therefore proposes to continue the practice, initiated through the ATCSA voluntary code, of developing meaningful detail through bilateral consultation and specific agreements with individual public communications providers (in cases where the public communications provider's own business practices do not already meet Government's public protection requirements).
Note the utter lack of any involvement by members of of the public, citizens, taxpayers or customers in this cosy, secretive "bilateral consultation".