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Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act passed: Two more years of ISPs hoarding your data

The controversial Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill has passed its final rush-through reading in the House of Commons and is now an Act. 

Brought in after European judges ruled existing laws a human rights violation, if they pass smoothly through the House of Lords today, the new laws will compel ISP and telecoms providers to store data on users.

The Bill has cross-party support despite claims from privacy campaigners that it enshrines state surveillance of the public and is being rushed through parliament in three days, with MPs voting 436 to 49 to pass it to the House of Lords.

It'll be business as usual at GCHQ if DRIP passes into law
It’ll be business as usual at GCHQ if DRIP passes into law

The bill now heads to the House of Lords for approval. The law was introduced after European Court of Justice decided that blanket data-retention policies of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (know as RIPA) was unlawful on human rights grounds.

Home Secretary Theresa May said that DRIPA is a return the status quo afforded under RIPA, but it contains several amendments to existing legislation. 

The government was concerned that ISPs would begin deleting data after RIPA’s requirements were ruled unlawful.

Amendments include expanding the meaning of a ‘telecommunications service’ to cover any individual or organisation using a computer to connect to the internet.

It also allows the British government to impose court sanctions on non-UK companies which provide services to British citizens, if they refuse to comply with a warrant to hand over the content of communications.

Privacy campaigners have accused the government of misleading the public over the Bill, although it includes a December 2016 ‘sunset clause’ which will revoke the new laws without further Parliamentary scrutiny.

DRIP also insists Ministers must review all investigatory powers before the next election and that there should be six-monthly reviews of the Bill’s implementation.

According to a briefing document by a number of campaign groups, clause 4 of DRIP grants significant new powers that extend the territorial scope of the broad interception and communications acquisition powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).

Isabella Sankey, Liberty’s policy director, said: “Clause 4 of the bill also contains new and unprecedented powers for the UK to require overseas companies to comply with interception warrants and communications data acquisition requests and build interception capabilities into their products and infrastructure.”

Meanwhile, clause 5 of DRIPA potentially expands the now-outdated definition of telecommunications services, established by RIPA in 2000, to include webmail and some social media traffic data.

May responded: “”In relation to lawful intercept, it is the case that it has always been regarded, from government circles certainly, that Ripa had an ability to serve warrant on a provider that’s overseas, and that there was a wide range of providers that came under the definition of Ripa.

“This has been questioned, and we feel it’s appropriate to, therefore, put that beyond doubt in terms of legislating. But these are powers and capabilities that exist today, that are used today. This is not about extending those to any new remit.”

Opposition to DRIPA also came from both sides of the House, including Labour MP privacy advocate Tom Watson and Conservative MP David Davis.

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