Emergency data law: What you need to know about the bill that makes ISPs store your data

Legislation being 'railroaded' through government by all three party leaders forces UK ISPs and mobile companies to store personal data for 12 months

The Government has caused uproar this morning by introducing an emergency bill that forces telecom companies to store users' personal data for 12 months despite the European Union ruling this April that such powers are illegal.

The bill has been supported by the leadership of the three main parties who say it's necessary to fight "criminals and terrorists", but some MPs and privacy advocates say the Government is simply using the threat of terrorism to hang on to powers of 'blanket surveillance'.

Either way it's a big deal, here's what you need to know:

What’s happening?
The Government is introducing emergency legislation called the “Data Retention and Investigation Powers Bill” that forces internet service providers (ISPs) and phone operators to store information about customer activity for 12 months at a time.

Video: Cameron defends law on grounds of national security

What information is being kept?
The bill concerns metadata rather than the actual content of messages. This means information such as when a call is made, how long it goes on for and who made it is kept – but not the actual audio from the call.  The same is true of communications such as text messages and emails.

However, privacy advocates say that this information is still more than enough for law enforcement to build up a detailed picture of someone’s life, revealing facts about their network of friends, their family, where they live, where they work and their daily routine.

What about people listening to my phone calls?
The Government does have powers to listen in to phone calls and read text messages and emails, but these are not new and are covered under the stricter - but still controversial - RIPA legislation of 2000 (the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act).

Under RIPA, police officers are required to obtain a warrant signed by the Home Secretary before directly snooping on calls or emails, with this emergency billl including a clause to review these powers.

Is this bill giving the government new powers?
No. A European-wide bill called the European Data Retention Directive first introduced the requirement for companies to hold on to data in 2006, but a ruling this April by the European Court of Justice declared that this was a violation of citizens’ privacy. This emergency bill is essentially maintaining the status quo.

Update: A draft of the Bill shows the government is expanding the jurisdiction of RIPA to include foreign companies

Who wants these powers and why?
The bill is backed by the leadership of all three parties who say it’s necessary to keep the country safe. David Cameron has said that finding out ‘who called who when’ is vital information in investigating 95 per cent of serious crimes and has also said the legislation is important for counter-terrorism work.

So the government is just going to keep storing this data for ever?
Maybe. The Bill includes a so-called ‘sunset clause’ that means all these powers will have to be reviewed in 2016 by the next government.

Other parts of the Bill are intended to "increase transparency and oversight" including the creation of a new board to examine how these laws impact privacy and civil liberties and annual government 'transparency reports' on how these powers are used.

Why is it such an emergency?
This is not at all clear. The Government is doing everything in its power to push this bill through as quickly as possible and says that the ruling by the EU could strip the police of important powers.

However, critics have pointed out that the ruling happened three months ago. The Government has enough time to collect cross-party support, but yet most MPs won’t have a chance to look at the bill in detail and instead will be relying on the recommendations (all favourable) of their party leaders.

Many people are unhappy about the lack of scrutiny enforcing a law which the EU has declared illegal, with Labour MP Tom Watson describing the bill as a “stitch-up” and “secret deal between party leaders”.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

    Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

    Ashdown Group: Linux Administrator - London - £50,000

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator ...

    Ashdown Group: Business Intelligence Analyst - London - £45,000

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SQL Server Reporting Analyst (Busine...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower