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Draft Communications Bill seeks to modernise contact tracking
Wednesday 09 May 2012 12:21:28 by Andrew Ferguson

Changes to the law that governs how the police, intelligence agencies and other public bodies can access email logs are to be updated and the changes have been outlined in a Draft Communications Bill that formed part of the Queen's Speech.

The bill on one hand is being called a "snooper's charter", with the other hand highlighting the need for legislation to be updated as criminals adopt their online activities to try and remain ahead of the law.

The Draft Communications Bill is intended to allow the authorities to see who is talking to whom, over services like Skype, MSN, Jabber and other social media, both in public and in private. The content of emails, and messages would not be made available, and this is where filtering to identify traffic can be difficult, email is relatively simple to handle as POP3 and SMTP protocols are commonly used, the newer forms of social media all have their own protocols.

Technically it is entirely feasible to log the activity, given co-operation from the creators of social media apps, and an ongoing development process to re-program deep packet inspection hardware to log the traffic. The question is at what cost, and also what public bodies will have acess to the data? Safeguards are to be put in place, the four key ones being:

  • A 12-month limit on how long data can be retained
  • Measures to prevent unauthorised access
  • Strengthening independent oversight
  • Boosting the role of tribunals to consider complaints

The abuse of RIPA powers will be very much at the forefront of opposition to the Draft Communications Bill. A similar bill was attempted by the Labour Party when in power, but it failed, so let us hope that the new bill is given a suitable amount of time in Parliament to ensure it is implemented fairly and in full public view.


Posted by otester over 5 years ago
Simply get a messenger like PidGin, install OTR, the other person needs to do this as well, then your chat session is encrypted, works over your normal network (MSN, YahooIM etc.)
Posted by tommy45 over 5 years ago
How can such a ill conceived piece of unnecessary legislation ever be fair to the normal law abiding public ? they say that "the content won't be made available" The content has jack to do with the government, this should be a gross invasion of privacy, and against our human rights, the content should not even by harvested or read full stop, this government is living in it's own sad world of paranoia about time it got the 9-10 jack
Posted by tommy45 over 5 years ago
Well it'll firstly encrypt my e-mail's it may be worthwhile paying for e-mail hosting from a country that won't participate is such draconian measures,
Posted by mabibby over 5 years ago
The NHS will be forced to put voice recorders into our vocal chords next :)

As the gentlemen above said. Encrypt you're mail communications and host the mailbox in a non-EU country. With regards to messaging. Just ensure you use a Peer to Peer service. It'd be interesting in this instance how the vendor/government would look to log/monitor communications.
Posted by Laura_Craft over 5 years ago
There's a lots of hysteria about access to communications data. Its unrealistic to expect that the digital world is a no go area for law enforcement. We have had a high level of supervision by the Interception of Communications Commissioner since 2004 - the last report is at I'm happy so long as there are robust controls to make sure that investigations are necessary and proportionate to catch the real baddies (the ones that do real damage to you and me) without unnecessary intrusion into our privacy.
Posted by tommy45 over 5 years ago
Two words trust and government agencies , don't mix well they will abuse their powers, loose sensitive data, and it won't help the catch their bogey men,that they and the Americans are so paranoid about, I bet that they loose little sleep over,I don't trust them, why should i?
Posted by fibrebunny over 5 years ago
Mercury messenger has offered encryption for years. Not that I've used it for some considerable time. So not sure how buggy it is these days.
Posted by zhango over 5 years ago
Well said tommy45 - nice one, I agree entirely and I guess so do a lot of others.
Posted by pvfpvf over 5 years ago
Many people don't realise that the police and others have been snooping on people's "communications data" on a very large scale since the year 2000. This includes the IPs of every web site you visit, the addresses of all emails ytou send or receive, the phone numbers of everyone you call by landline or mobile, and where you were if using a mobile. 500,000 such snoops occur annually, and they can be self-authorised by police superintendents without any need for reasonable grounds for suspicion or for a warrant. It is now proposed to widen this to communications via hotmail, facebook, etc.
Posted by pvfpvf over 5 years ago
All of this is utterly vile and reprehensible. It is done under Part II, Chapter II of RIPA which ought to be repealed. If the police have reasonable grounds for suspicion, they can get a warrant to monitor all the above data and the content under RIPA Part II, Chapter I. Few would object to that, so there is no need for the Chapter II snoop-at-will powers.
As for the safeguard of a 12 month limit on how long the data can be retained, this is laughable. There already is such a limit in the UK, and it is double the minimum period of 6 months required by the EU Data Retention Directive.
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