The UK is set to pass a controversial new ‘emergency law’ that continues to force telecoms to retain customer data, despite a European Court of Justice ruling that said otherwise.
Under the new law, which will take effect in 2016, telecoms must retain phone and Internet data for 12 months, which can be viewed by authorities that have been signed off by the government. Prime Minister David Cameron has said the move is necessary to combat “criminals and terrorists”.
The emergency law is described as reinforcing previous ones that would have been under threat from the ECJ ruling. The current laws will expire in 2016 and these new rulings will then take effect.
“I want to be very clear that we are not introducing new powers or capabilities – that is not for this Parliament,” said David Cameron. “This is about restoring two vital measures ensuring that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies maintain the right tools to keep us all safe.”
He also said during this morning’s press conference: “It is the first duty of government to protect our national security and to act quickly when that security is compromised.”
“As events in Iraq and Syria demonstrate, now is not the time to be scaling back on our ability to keep our people safe. 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.”
The law has been sharply criticized by privacy and civil rights groups. Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group has stated that with regards to the emergency data retention law, there “is no emergency”.
In comments he made to the BBC:
“Not only will the proposed legislation infringe our right to privacy, it will also set a dangerous precedent where the government simply re-legislates every time it disagrees with a decision by the CJEU. The ruling still stands and these new plans may actually increase the amount of our personal data that is retained by ISPs, further infringing on our right to privacy.”
The BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson in his analysis, said the time for debate from critics is now. “To pass any new law in just a week is rare,” he wrote. “So too is it to have the backing of all three main parties even before it is published.”