The UK ‘Snoopers’ Charter’ – what does it mean for networks?

Following Home Secretary, Theresa May’s proposed draft Communications Data Bill (nicknamed the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’) there has been heavy criticism from, and many questions raised by network providers – primarily around cost and security.

The Communications Data Bill requires Internet service providers and mobile phone companies to maintain records of each user’s Internet browsing activity including; social media; email correspondence; voice calls; internet gaming; and mobile phone messaging services. In addition, providers and companies are to store these records for 12 months.

In a recent article posted in the Guardian, it was noted that senior figures from BT, Vodafone, O2 Telefonica, EE and 3 have told MPs and peers that the proposals in the draft Investigatory Powers Bill are very technically complex. So much so that it is not yet possible to make any meaningful estimate of the costs involved, or whether they are even technically possible.

Furthermore, the Financial Times covered Vodafone’s take on the legislation, where it said the Investigatory Powers Bill risked “significantly undermining trust” in British telecoms groups and would be “a major imposition on the freedom of an operator”.

Alex Phillips ‘Head of Mobile’ at Adam Phones comments further on the introduction of the proposed ‘Snoopers’ Charter’:

“The government wants to update legislation that allows them access to more data in order to aid investigations into crime and terrorism. For example, officials have revealed that ISIS terrorists planned Paris attacks with WhatsApp to keep conversations private.

Therefore existing regulations are seen as inadequate, because they don’t cover forms of electronic communication such as instant messaging or social media.

Obviously traditional call data files have always included which country you were calling from, the number dialled and how much data was used – but of course not the content.  But with the introduction of the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’, network providers would be nervous of the complexity to implement.

There’s also the ‘Security vs. Privacy’ debate to consider, which is high on the agenda at many key cyber security and MDM conferences. The exchanging of our data has been happening for a while now – for example, the O2 cloud sells data to supermarkets telling them where you’re shopping. But that’s being used for targeted marketing, not for accessing private messages.

If the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’ does get passed through, there needs to be a strict set of rules and regulations – and an open code of conduct. “

Posted on: 4th February 2016

Posted in: Mobile Industry News