Later this year, Parliament is likely to pass the Investigatory Powers Bill. The IP Bill will have far-reaching implications for both telecoms providers and businesses more widely, as the issue of storing and securing customer data – and how it is shared with the police and state bodies – is widely debated. As the Bill progresses through Parliament, it’s crucial we all understand what it means for our businesses and customers and what they can do to prepare.
What is the current situation?
At the moment, the rules about what information communications providers are expected to store are set out in many different pieces of legislation. The system has worked fairly well up until now, but it’s complex and some of it is due to expire at the end of 2016. Rather than apply a temporary fix, the Government is taking the opportunity to consolidate existing powers into one single Bill. In theory, this should result in a simpler, more transparent system compared to the jumbled web of powers we have today.
The current Bill is not without its critics – as Apple’s recent battle with the FBI shows, the balance between privacy and security is a sensitive one. MPs are currently debating a new obligation on providers to store Internet Connection Records (ICRs), essentially 12 months of internet history for each customer. As MPs continue to debate the Bill in Parliament, the scope of ICRs may change, it is expected they will be included in some form in the final version that The Queen signs into law.
So what would ICRs mean for Communication Providers?
The timeline for passing the IP Bill before some of the existing laws expire at the end of 2016 is tight, but it is obvious a new bill is needed. If passed, it is likely communication providers will have to store significantly more data, with the Government indicating it will reimburse for any additional costs incurred.
Whilst this Bill mainly affects only telecommunications providers, the debate on how privacy and security are balanced in a digital age will have far-reaching consequences, and all businesses will need to think about how they record, store and use their customers’ data.
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