UK government communications plan slammed

Privacy advocates slammed UK government plans to rush through legislation requiring communications service providers (CSPs) to store metadata on phone calls and internet usage

UK Prime Minister David Cameron gives his opening address to the 2014 CeBIT trade fair

UK Prime Minister David Cameron

Prime Minister, David Cameron, and deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, said the emergency Data Retention and Investigation Powers Bill is necessary to enable security services to identify terrorist threats and investigate criminal activity, and will also clarify the responsibilities of CSPs following a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling in April that overturned the requirement for them to store communications metadata for up to 12 months.

A government statement revealed the legislation--which is due to be passed in the next week--has support from all main UK political parties, and will be used to buy time for a broader review of investigatory powers.

"The ability to access information about communications and intercept the communications of dangerous individuals is essential to fight the threat from criminals and terrorists targeting the UK," Cameron stated, adding: "I want to be very clear that we are not introducing new powers or capabilities…This is about restoring 2 vital measures ensuring that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies maintain the right tools to keep us all safe."

Meanwhile critics have slammed the timing of the legislation.

MP David Davis, a former shadow home secretary, told the BBC the government has had plenty of time to consider a response to the ECJ ruling, and accused it of creating a "theatrical emergency".

Shami Chakrabarti, director of privacy group Liberty, said the legislation enables the government to snoop on members of the public, regardless of whether they are suspected of criminal activity or not, the Guardian reported. She noted the cross-party agreement was struck in private, with no opportunity for scrutiny.

The UK government's action comes at a time of intense debate over privacy in Europe, following claims of snooping by U.S. and UK authorities by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Those allegations on Thursday led Germany's government to order the expulsion of a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) official from the country, the BBC reported, because of a lack of cooperation from U.S. authorities into claims of spying that include an allegation that Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone was hacked.

UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, last month said the country hasn't done enough to convince the public of the need to monitor communications in the interests of national security.

In a speech to Parliament on Thursday, May added that communications monitoring and legal interception--the power to delve into the content of communications--"are vital for combating crime and fighting terrorism."

For more:
- read the UK government's announcement
- see this BBC report on the UK plans
- see this Guardian article
- see the BBC's German expulsion report
- read Theresa May's speech

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