The British government has appointed a special diplomat to match its squeeze on our data from British internet companies with information from international online businesses.
Former ambassador to the USA, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, will be the UK’s Special Envoy on intelligence and law enforcement data sharing, charged with encouraging other countries and their online businesses to share data with British police and security services.
The new role was created in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers (DRIP) Act, which was rushed through Parliament without scrutiny earlier this year to block loopholes in existing security laws.
When DRIP was passed in July, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “A number of overseas companies have asserted that their ability to work with the UK government is being severely constrained by international conflicts of jurisdiction.
“For example, where they think they have a British law saying that they should share data, and an American law saying that they shouldn’t.
“So we intend to appoint a senior diplomat to work with America and other countries to address these concerns and ensure that lawful and justified transfer of information across borders takes place to protect our people’s safety and security.”
British intelligence and law enforcement have broad powers to access British citizens’ data through GCHQ, similar to the NSA’s ability to intercept data from US telecoms providers and internet companies, but British agencies don’t have the power to access data held by US companies on British citizens.
The special envoy’s job will be to find formal routes around these roadblocks, both within the USA and with other ‘key international partners’.
This could include new ‘mutual legal assistance’ treaties and other international arrangements, or formal processes for British agencies to request information from US companies.
This will include convincing foreign governments to reveal information about your mobile phone and internet usage many of whom have conflicting policies that do not allow such records to be released.
The government also sought to reassure people on both sides of the pond that the new envoy’s job won’t enable GCHQ to rifle through your Google history for fapping searches.
“He will seek to ensure that any new arrangements observe the requirement that data is requested and provided only where necessary and proportionate for the purposes of national security and the prevention or detection of serious crime,” said the announcement of Sir Nigel’s appointment.