Wednesday, November 11, 2009

IMP consultation responses published; IMP postponed?

The UK government has published a summary of the responses to its public consultation on its proposed interception modernisation programme (IMP), or as it prefers to call it: "Protecting the public in a changing communications environment".
"The 221 respondents comprised 167 members of the public and 54 organisations including communications services providers, industry bodies, public authorities and campaign groups. A list of the respondents is provided in Annex B.
90 respondents did not address the questions asked but objected generally to the paper, almost invariably on the grounds of opposition in principle to any sort of surveillance. The percentages given below (in relation to each of the questions asked) therefore only relate to the 131 responses which provided a positive or negative response to the consultation’s specific questions. Where the percentages do not add up to 100% the balance is due to answers that addressed the specific question without being clearly negative or positive.
The main themes to emerge in responses were:
• widespread (but not unanimous) recognition of the importance of communications data in protecting the public;
• widespread appreciation of the challenges which rapidly changing technology poses;
• some support for the Government’s proposed ways of meeting these challenges;
• but also concerns about whether the Government’s proposals would be technically feasible or would impose unreasonable burdens on industry;
• some concern about whether the assessment of the balance of costs and benefits of the Government’s proposals was realistic;
• a desire from a number of respondents for greater clarity on why existing legislation and regulations were not capable of meeting the Government’s stated requirements;
• but also a recognition, particularly amongst those involved in the communications industry, that current legislation and regulations relating to the collection, retention and processing of communications data, particularly third party data, would soon need to be updated in light of changing technology;
• concerns about protecting communications data, where both privacy and commercial interests were engaged; and
• calls for more judicial involvement, and greater visibility and public awareness of existing oversight mechanisms, in order to improve public confidence in the way public authorities use communications data to protect them...
Question 1: On the basis of this evidence and subject to current safeguards and oversight arrangements, do you agree that communications data is vital for law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies and emergency services in tackling serious crime, preventing terrorism and protecting the public?
59% of respondents agreed...
18% of respondents answered ‘no’ to question 1...
Question 2: Is it right for Government to maintain this capability by responding to the new communications environment?
Question 3: Do you support the Government’s approach to maintaining our capabilities? Which of the solutions should it adopt?
Question 4: Do you believe that the safeguards outlined are sufficient for communications in the future?
The Home Office would like to thank all those who took the trouble to respond to this consultation.
The Government welcomes the recognition from a majority of respondents of the importance of communications data in protecting the public and that it is necessary to respond to rapidly changing technology in order to maintain this capability. It acknowledges that to improve confidence and trust in the use of communications data, and to demonstrate necessity and proportionality, it needs to continue to explain the importance of communications data, and the impact any loss of capability would have.
The Government will continue to develop the approach it proposed in the consultation document with a view to bringing forward the necessary legislation. In particular, it agrees with the significant view amongst respondents on the importance of safeguards and will ensure that the same strict safeguards that apply today will continue to minimise the potential for abuse and to ensure the safety and security of communications data under any new proposals. This view is strongly supported by public authorities that use communications data on behalf of the public.
The Government will also continue to work closely with communications service providers to ensure that any additional requirements will be feasible and reasonable, and to minimise, as far as possible, any impact on industry."
The Home Office also seems to have briefed some journalists to the effect that they have now decided to postpone IMP leglislation until after the election next year.

Update: The folks at the Telegraph seem to have talked to officials with a different view, i.e. that imp is going full steam ahead.

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