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UK set to pass emergency data retention law

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The UK government is going to pass an emergency law to retain access to phone and internet data records for the police and other security services.

The Data Retention and Investigation Powers Bill is the government’s attempt to ensure the country still has the power to fight “criminals and terrorists” if and when it needs to.

The UK government move follows the decision by the European Court of Justice to quash an EU directive enforcing companies to retain communications data for 12 months.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said without this new Bill, communications data could be destroyed within weeks, which would stop police and security services accessing it in the future.

“It is the first duty of government to protect our national security and to act quickly when that security is compromised,” said Cameron. “As events in Iraq and Syria demonstrate, now is not the time to be scaling back on our ability to keep our people safe.”

“The ability to access information about communications and intercept the communications of dangerous individuals is essential to fight the threat from criminals and terrorists targeting the UK.”

To pass a Bill so quickly means that all three major political parties must have backed it from the off, which highlights the apparent necessity of the legislation for protecting UK citizens.

“No government introduces fast-track legislation lightly. But the consequences of not acting are grave.”

This is not new legislation of course, the Data Retention and Investigation Powers Bill is a way of keeping existing policies safe for the future.

“I want to be very clear that we are not introducing new powers or capabilities – that is not for this Parliament. This is about restoring two vital measures ensuring that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies maintain the right tools to keep us all safe.”

However, as you can expect, civil liberties groups are against the Bill and say the government is only using terrorism as an excuse.

“Not only will the proposed legislation infring our right to privacy, it will also set a dangerous precendent where the government simply re-legislates every time it disagrees with a decision by the CJEU”, explained Jim Killock, Executive Director of The Open Rights Group, which campaigns for great openness.

“The ruling still stands and these new plans may actually increase ehte amount of our personal data that is retained by ISPs, further infringing on our right to privacy. Blanket surveillance needs to end. That is what the court has said.”

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