A law which may require firms to provide details about the identity of computer and mobile phone users at any time is to be defined to MPs by the UK Home Secretary Theresa May on Wednesday this week. The requirement aims to be part of a Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill which may require providers of these services to keep data which links users and devices. The government is aiming that these measures may boost counter-terrorism and child protection effectiveness and support the law enforcement community.
The law aims to allow security services to trace people through their Internet Protocol (IP) address. IP addresses may change and are often used by multiple users and therefore may be a significant challenge to investigations by law enforcement.
The government has previously attempted to implement similar measures in the Communications Data Bill which was dropped by the government due to it being successfully challenged by the Liberal Democrats. The Communications Data Bill aimed to have required providers to maintain records of user’s social media activity, conversations online, calls and texts for 12 months in case law enforcement required the information for investigations.
Legislating on issues involving internet and technological privacy is a challenge to decide where privacy and protection may meet. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute on security and privacy in the internet age the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg highlighted the internet’s benefit as a “tool for innovation and creativity” and the use of it in the “push for greater freedom, civil liberties and democracy around the world”. However, the Deputy Prime Minister also spoke about how to “balance the competing principles of freedom and security” which is critical in establishing the protection of privacy and also to boosting security.
The proposed law aims to also present challenges to businesses as the Chairman of the Internet Service Providers Association, James Massey, believes that the plan may require “tens if not hundreds of millions” in cost to the industry. Providers may look to coordinate with the government in establishing the changes to the industry of maintaining the information and data that the measures may be require.
The government might champion the benefits that the measures may bring to law enforcement in terms of counter-terrorism and child protection. The plan aims to aid the identification of who is using a device and therefore might improve the speed of investigations and also may lessen the challenges that law enforcement face when dealing with this kind of investigation. Furthermore, in terms of Counter-terrorism the plan might allow more effective protection and investigation which may result in more secure use of technology and the internet.
Whilst the previous attempt to bring about similar measures by the government in the Communications Data Bill was challenged by the Liberal Democrats it seems that they might agree more with the new plan. Whilst speaking on internet security Nick Clegg stated that “the matching of IP addresses is a totally sensible thing to do” and therefore it may seem that there may be relative coalition support. However, whilst the Liberal Democrats may support parts of the plan there may be challenges to other areas as there might still be calls for changes to the measures if the proposed plan is similar to the Communications Data Bill.
The soon-to-be proposed data plan may affect the future of internet privacy within the UK. In an increasingly technological environment in which there are innumerable capabilities of the internet and technological use, where might protection end and privacy begin?
The use of technology may be a cornerstone to many people’s lives within the UK and therefore the boundaries of protection and privacy may be a defining factor in the future of social policy. The challenge of protection involving technology and the internet whilst equally safeguarding privacy is a challenging topic which may change the social environment in which technology is used.
How might the potential internet data plan offer productive changes with internet privacy in the UK?