The Investigatory Powers Bill: What will it mean for you?

The Investigatory Powers Bill: What will it mean for you?

Richard Thompson, Director of Partners

Richard Thompson, Director of Partners

Later this year, Parliament is likely to pass the Investigatory Powers Bill. The IP Bill will have far-reaching implications for both telecoms and communications providers by changing what customer data we are required to store, how the data is stored and how we share this data with the police and state bodies. 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; however 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?

That’s currently subject to detailed conversations between the Home Office. Network Operators and industry trade bodies – for example, ISPA has played a full role in discussions to date. At a bare minimum, it’s likely to mean communications providers will have to store significantly more data than they already do – but exactly what information, and how the additional storage costs will be covered is still to be decided. The Government has indicated it will reimburse any additional costs incurred, but providers are understandably keen to understand how that system will work. It is likely that resellers will have to be fully compliant with the new legislation, responsible for storing ICRs, although that is yet another detail that remains unclear.

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, there is a key role for the partner community to ensure there is a clear line of communication with customers regarding their security and privacy.

The Parliamentary debate continues, and we’ll keep the channel updated on the new responsibilities on privacy and security we all face.


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