An emergency law is being passed through Parliament which will allow MI5 security services and the police to access email and phone conversations which, according to the Prime Minister, is “essential to fight the threat from criminals and terrorists targeting the UK”.
The emergency law is a reaction to a ruling by the European Court of Justice in April which states an EU directive holding data interfered with the right for a private life. Without the emergency law, there is a fear that some phone and internet companies will stop providing important information to help investigate cases against suspected criminals.
So what does this law mean to peoples’ personal and business data and should you be concerned about government agencies snooping through your information? The short answer is no as under the Data Retention and Investigation Powers Bill certain clauses would need to be fulfilled before access to your information is granted. These include:
- Security services would need a warrant before they could listen to phone calls or read emails.
- The number of public bodies allowed to request phone and email details will be reduced. Bodies such as Royal Mail, pensions bodies and charities will no longer be granted access.
- Councils will be excluded from asking for information directly from providers.
- A senior diplomat will oversee how information requests can be shared with other countries.
- There will be an annual transparency report on the warrants issued and why.
The new Bill will last until the end of 2016 at which point a review into the whole system of data retention and access will be completed ready for a new revised bill after that.