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Does the Government's Communications Data Bill snoop too much?

The Joint Committee of MPs and Peers tasked with the pre-legislative scrutiny of the Draft Communications Data Bill has today launched its inquiry and invites submissions of evidence.

The Committee will assess whether the draft Bill will fulfil its purpose of “protecting the public by ensuring that law enforcement agencies and others continue to have access to communications data so that they can bring offenders to justice”. The Government's proposals would update current legislation that enables public bodies – including intelligence and security agencies and the police – to access information relating to communications data.

Commenting on the launch of the inquiry, Committee Chairman Lord Blencathra said:

“You only need to have caught sight of the newspapers recently to realise that this is a controversial Bill which will affect each and every one of us in some way. We all email, use websites and mobile phones and this Committee wants to ensure that the draft Bill will ensure a sufficient balance between an individuals' privacy and national security.

“We intend very thoroughly to examine the Government's proposals and hope to hear from interested bodies and organisations about exactly how the changes in technology and the way we use it should be reflected in legislation about access to communication data.”

The inquiry will cover aspects of the draft Bill such as costs, the use of communications data, safeguards and enforcement. The Committee's call for evidence, published today, asks specifically:

  • How do the proposals in the draft Bill fit within the wider landscape on intrusion into individuals' privacy?
  • Which public authorities should be able to access communications data under the draft Bill?
  • Is retaining data for 12 months too much or too little time?
  • Does the technology exist to enable communications service providers to capture communications data reliably, store it safely and separate it from communications content?
  • Are there any concerns that from a technical perspective, individuals or organisations may be able to circumvent measures proposed by the draft Bill?

The full call for evidence is available online. The deadline for submitting written evidence is 23 August 2012.

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