UK Tells ISPs They Must Retain Data… Except If It Costs Money

from the mixed-messages dept

For years, Europe has been trying to push data retention rules, that require ISPs to hang onto data much longer than it’s needed for any business purpose. Such data retention has plenty of problems, from the likelihood of abuse to the chance of inadvertent disclosure to the simple fact that sifting through more data often makes it more difficult to find the data you actually need. However, the biggest problem is the cost involved with data retention. It’s rather costly to retain all that data for many ISPs, and for years ISPs (especially smaller ones) fought to make sure that any data retention laws also included provisions that would make the government pay for retaining the data. While some politicians in the UK have tried to shrug off the cost issue as not a big deal, it looks like it may leave a loophole that makes data retention in the UK basically meaningless.

The Register is reporting on a meeting the UK government held with various ISPs that left many of the ISPs baffled. Basically, they were told that they needed to start retaining data to stay in compliance with the law, but that since the UK government couldn’t pay for it, many of the ISPs could get away without actually retaining the data. In other words, it sounded as if they said that, yes, you need to retain the data, but since we don’t want to pay for it, maybe you shouldn’t actually retain the data (wink, wink, nod, nod). So they end up giving lip service to the public about telling ISPs to retain data, but then since they won’t fund it, it won’t actually happen.

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Comments on “UK Tells ISPs They Must Retain Data… Except If It Costs Money”

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Liquid says:

Another retarded Government Moment! ! !

Got to love the loopholes that governments put in place to get them selves out of doing something. Especially in this case Britsh Gov. “You (ISP’s) now have to retain all data for your network past 7 years, BUT if it costs you money to do so then you don’t have to”… This sees real inteligent.

RabC says:

Re: Re:

It IS because its a filthy freedom-fry eating Co rather than a Chip-eating co-operative of ethical and green members. Its also that when something happens they can turn round to the public and say “well, we told them to keep the data!”. No blame on them. And its DA-TAH retention, not dayta retention, you unspeakable wretch..

Joseph Young says:

The Communications Data Bill and the Interception Modernisation Programme

This makes perfect sense in the broader context. Directive 2006/24/EC, the data retention directive, is a result of proposals the UK government put forward to the European Union. The idea was to incorporate the resulting directive into wider-ranging UK legislation and then blame the whole lot on the nasty Europeans. Unfortunately, the timing did not go to plan. The Communications Data Bill is late and the resultant act will not be on the statue book before the deadline for implementing the data retention directive. To meet that deadline, the Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2008 will be a near verbatim transcription of Directive 2006/24/EC into UK law. Associated with the Communications Data Bill we have the Interception Modernisation Programme. This is fast being decoupled from the bill to prevent it being scrutinised by parliament.

Firstly, the government have a voluntary agreement with UK ISPs. Some information the ISPs already collect, such as web browsing, is not required by the data retention directive, although information is not usually retained for the minimum six months set by the directive. So, pressurising the ISPs at this stage would gain little and risk their goodwill.

Secondly, at some point in the future, the government will be expecting ISPs to put systems into their networks to meet the requirements of the Communications Data Bill and the Interception Modernisation Programme. A system that can centrally log the existence of every communication any person within the UK makes is far beyond what is required for the data retention directive. Any money spent on meeting that directive will almost certainly be completely wasted. Attempting to capture all web browsing, all email including private messaging on web fora, all instant messaging, all on-line gaming including private servers, all the various protocols for transmitting voice and video, in fact any way two people can communicate over the Internet will require the most sophisticated deep packet inspection of every packet originating or terminating within the UK. Then, when the communication of specific people has been identified, the system will hoover up all future content of those communications. Not only is this far beyond the data retention directive, I believe that it is far beyond what even a country like China could or would even want to achieve.

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