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‘Snoopers’ charter’ Bill to cost £1.8bn - June-14-12
Source: The Times - Law
The Government is proposing to spend £1.8 billion enabling security and tax officials to know the details of the phone calls, e-mails and internet usage of every person in Britain.
The price tag for implementing the Communications Data Bill, dubbed a “snoopers’ charter” by its opponents, was disclosed by the Home Office today as Theresa May published the draft legislation.
The costs include equipping internet and telephone companies to store the enormous volumes of data. The Home Office admitted that the £1.8 million price tag was before VAT and inflation were added. The bill could rise to in excess of £2.5 billion.
It predicted the measures would save taxpayers £5 billion to £6.2 billion, including from reducing tax fraud and seizing criminal assets.
“This communications data is vital for catching criminals,” said Mrs May, at a Home Office briefing.
“If we don’t do this, if that money isn’t spent, then we are going to catch fewer criminals… The only people who have anything to fear from this are the criminals.”
The Bill removes the need for police and security services to obtain a warrant from a judge to access electronic data. The information they can glean includes who contacted whom, when and for how long - although not what was said.
David Davis, the former shadow Home Secretary who opposes the Bill, warned that in 2010, the last year for which data is available, the police and security services made a “staggering” half a million requests for such data – a rate of more than one thousand a day.
Removing the need to ask a judge for permission would pave the way for an even greater explosion of snooping by the authorities, he warned. He pointed out that David Cameron and Mrs May had vigorously opposed almost identical proposals while in opposition.
“Can I just say that when David Davis says that the people this is going to catch are innocent people and it is not going to catch the criminals, he couldn’t be more wrong,” retorted Ms May, on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, knocking down an argument that Mr Davis had not in fact made.
“This is about catching criminals and ensuring that the police continue to have that capability…
“We know that the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre, Ceop, is already saying that there are some paedophiles out there that they are not able to catch because they couldn’t have access to the new data because they are using different methods of communication.”
Mrs May also justified the huge numbers of requests for data interception. “It is on such a scale because this is information that is useful,” she said.
“It is not half a million different people, it is half a million requests for this information. That may actually cover a number of requests being made in relation to people in some cases.”
Writing in The Times today, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police says that the new police data collection powers could be a “matter of life and death”, and warns that police will lose the fight against crime unless Parliament passes the controversial new law.
Bernard Hogan-Howe says that establishing where suspects have been and who they have been in contact with is essential to almost every murder investigation and has convicted some of the most notorious killers of the past decade including Ian Huntley, the Soham murderer, and Levi Bellfield, who killed Milly Dowler and Amelie Delagrange.
Communications data has, the Commissioner adds, been used in every recent counter-terrorism operation and 95 per cent of investigations into serious organised crime.
Under current laws, security agencies and other organisations can access data about who called whom, when and where, though not the content of the calls. The new proposals will allow them to obtain similar details about e-mails, social media messaging and other digital communications.
Internet service providers will be required to keep records of all communications by everyone in Britain.
In an attempt to mollify critics who accuse Mrs May of creating a Big Brother State, she is proposing that local authorities and hundreds of other organisations, including the UK Border Agency and Serious Fraud Office, will be barred from accessing details of e-mails and internet use and will also lose their power to access details of phone calls. Only the police, intelligence services, Revenue & Customs and the National Crime Agency will be able to request the communications data.
In 2010, local councils were responsible for 1,809 of the 550,000 requests for communications data, and a further 2,875 were made by other agencies. If local authorities and other public bodies want the powers, they will have to seek parliamentary approval in the future.
Mr Davis called the measures “madness”. He revealed that a crime lord serving 37 years for organised crime had written to him from prison explaining exactly how he got round every provision of the new bill.
“You use a pre-paid phone. You use an internet café. You hack into someone else’s Wi-Fi. You use what’s called a proxy server. And that’s just the easy ways, there are other ways too,” said Mr Davis.
“The 7/7 bombers went round it. Organised criminals go round it. Organised paedophiles get round it. What this bill will catch is the innocent and the incompetent.”
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