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ShareShhh…Don’t talk about the new Snooper’s Charter – But, here are the latest updates!

The consultation period for the new Investigatory Powers Bill, nicknamed the Snooper’s Charter 3.0, has begun and the information emerging so far is already raising industry concerns. Mainly the fact that the new data retention orders will potentially only apply to larger ISPs; all affected ISPs will be effectively ‘gagged’ from discussing their involvement; and the consultation period has been significantly reduced to just 3 weeks!

Smaller ISPs unaffected?

According to www.ispreview.co.uk, “the Government already has data retention orders with the biggest broadband ISPs under the existing regime and told the smaller providers that, going forwards, the expectation was for such orders to continue to only be served upon the big boys.”

Like many ISPs we’ve always aired our concerns about the operational and economic implications of smaller service providers being forced to retain large amounts of data under whatever bill is introduced, but the Government’s focus only on the big players is an interesting one.

This unusual step by Government seems to defeat the whole point of the exercise, potentially rendering the legislation useless.

Shhh…don’t talk about the Snooper’s Charter

Meanwhile, rumours surrounding the potential ‘gagging’ of ISPs on this subject had arisen prior to the meeting reported by ISPreview, based on the text of the bill.  

We can understand why the Government may not want the public to be fully aware of the details of the Bill, but, let’s face it, so far the request for silence doesn’t seem to be working as more and more details continue to emerge in the press. One of the questions in the call for evidence is whether the provisions are “sufficiently clear and accessible on the face of the draft Bill?” and the idea of initial and ongoing backroom discussions between large ISPs and Government is disquieting.

Consultation period significantly reduced

We were all promised a “properly scrutinised Bill” especially in light of the highly controversial nature of this topic and the scrapping of its previous iterations. However, it seems that promise has been broken and we now have just 3 weeks to discuss the complex ins and outs of this highly emotive issue before Theresa May pushes it through to Parliament in the New Year. In comparison its predecessor the Communications Data Bill received 5 months worth of debate, which resulted in its demise. Do we see a pattern emerging? Remind you of the DEA at all?  If the Government wants to push something controversial through, especially when it has previously failed, then why not do it quickly over Christmas without giving anyone the appropriate amount of time to analyse and comment on it!

Let’s see what further information emerges over the remaining three weeks’ worth of debate and how much true scrutiny the industry is able to conduct before the Bill starts its parliamentary journey. The Government really is pushing hard on the Bill this time though and we think it’s going to take a lot to stop Theresa May getting her own way, especially after previously failed attempts.

Have your say!

Are you relieved that the new Bill may not affect smaller ISPs? Or do you think that completely defeats the purpose of the legislation rendering it useless? Do you think the ISPs involved are right to request secrecy about their involvement or should this be visible to all? Do you foresee another rushed debate and hastily introduced Bill at a convenient time of year? Would you prefer a longer and more thorough industry debate? Let us know your opinions by leaving us a comment below.

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