It is one of the oldest tricks in the book, you cannot get something enshrined in law and so you hide it amongst the reams of lawyer speak as an amendment. This is what appears to be happening with 17 pages of amendments that have just been put forward as amendments to the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill by four members of The House of Lords.
Previous attempts to increase the amount of data that telecommunication firms are required by law to retain have met with scepticism and a common theme is that the industry is rarely consulted on what is possible, feasible and the impact on the cost of services.
While basic IP address logging is already done it appears that the amendents are aiming to force retention of access and chat room logs for social media and other online communications, in essence it appears very much like the content of the Communications Data Bill is all in this amendment.
Amendments to the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill have been tabled that seek to introduce the extensive powers contained in the Draft Communications Data Bill into the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill.
Inserting the clauses contained in the Draft Communications Data Bill into an already complex Bill that is itself proceeding through Parliament via a fast-tracked process is ill-judged. The Lords cannot have time to properly consider the substantial powers contained in the amendments to the Bill, and would deny the Commons the opportunity to properly consider the powers as well.
The Draft Communications Data Bill was scrutinised by a Joint Parliamentary Committee in 2012 who concluded that there “should be a new round of consultation with technical experts, industry, law enforcement bodies, public authorities and civil liberties groups”. At the time industry was critical of the level of consultation and there has since been no adequate consultation since.
The Committee also had substantial concerns around the wholesale collection and analysis of communications data, oversight regime, definitions of communications data and robustness of cost estimates, and these have not been addressed and would require considerable changes to the current drafting. Introducing as amendments to a Bill that is being fast-tracked through Parliament, without acknowledging the need for further debate and substantial change, is deeply regrettable.
The Government established a review into investigatory powers led by the independent reviewer of terrorism, David Anderson QC, that is set to publish before the General Election. Rather than bringing in substantial legislation by the backdoor before this review has published and without addressing the concerns of a parliamentary Joint Committee, we urge Parliament to reject this attempt to insert complex legislation into an existing Bill at the last minute.Statement from ISPA Secretary General Nicholas Lansman
The reason so many people are wary of increased tracking and logging of everyone online, is the way we now live our lives so much online which means increased logging levels are almost akin to us all having to live in homes with transparent walls just in case someone commits a crime. Another problem is that even if the worries over abuse of the databases prove unfounded the volume of data storage required and extra hardware to store what is in many cases transient data is going to consume lots of time and money.
Perhaps the only difference now between the UK and other more repressive regimes that track, censor and heavily police the Internet is the visibility to the public that the data is being collected.