Editorial

A new Tory government would force near real-time handover of personal data

In the wake of Monday’s tragedy, press reports say we can expect even tougher ‘Snooper’s Charter’ regulations in a bid to combat terrorism

Posted 25 May 2017 by

Encrypted, personal data should be available to law enforcement in the wake of the Manchester terror attack, a move bound to provoke civil liberties protests.

According to a report in The Sun, the government would want to push new powers through Parliament which would “compel tech giants” to hand over encrypted data to terror investigators within weeks of it winning the General Election on June 8th.

The government will ask the Commons to nod through the new orders – dubbed Technical Capability Notices – as soon as the election is over, with draft versions already available of the proposed extensions to the Investigatory Powers Act of of last year.

These state that say telecom companies will have to provide “communications and secondary data” about a person “in near real time” if a warrant is obtained for collection of information about an individual:

To provide and maintain the capability to carry out the interception of communications or the obtaining of secondary data and disclose anything obtained under the warrant to the person to whom the warrant was addressed, or any person acting on that person’s behalf, within one working day, or such longer period as may be specified in the technical capability notice, of the telecommunications operator being informed that the warrant has been issued.

That would mean, as the tabloid points out, that the Police and MI5 can “insist services like WhatsApp and Facebook remove all encryption from suspect messages themselves” for the first time.

Each order will have to be approved by a warrant signed by the Home Secretary and also approved by a senior judge, adds the report, which goes on to quote an anonymous “Government Minister”:

“We will do this as soon as we can after the election, as long as we get back in. The level of threat clearly proves there is no more time to waste now.

“The social media companies have been laughing in our faces for too long.”

All tech companies with over 10,000 users now face having to significantly adapt their technology, it is claimed, while WIRED UK’s interpretation of the plans notes that UK comms companies – which include ISPs and phone networks – will also have to “remove electronic protection” and provide information in an “intelligible form” when requested with a warrant.

Any such extensions to the Act would have to be approved by the government elected next month, but are bound to prove controversial.