Monday, April 18, 2011

The European Commission and the Intercept Modernisation Programme

Syed121 Regular visitors to the Big Brother Watch blog will be well aware of our opposition to the Intercept Modernisation Programme - a vast database which will log details of all 'phone calls, text messages and e-mails sent in the United Kingdom.  More on our position can be found here.

Syed Kamall, a Conservative MEP for London, has tabled a question to the European Commission examining the legal basis for the scheme and its conformance with EU law. 

In his question, Syed asked whether 1) the UK's Intercept Modernisation Programme as described in the Strategic Defence Review would be compatible with EU data protection laws and 2) what steps the Commission intended to take if it was incompatible with EU statues.

The Commission's response was as follows:

"The Commission underlines the importance of the protection of the security of citizens in conjunction with a robust protection of civil liberties.

"The ePrivacy Directive 2002/58/EC protects the right to privacy in the electronic communications sector. It provides that Member States may adopt legislative measures to restrict the scope of the rights, including those concerning confidentiality of communications, when such restriction constitutes a necessary, appropriate and proportionate measure within a democratic society to safeguard, inter alia, public security.

"The European Commission is aware that in April 2009 the UK Government consulted on a number of options for maintaining the vital capability of public authorities to use communications data to protect the public.

"In October 2010 the UK Government set out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review its intention to continue to build on an existing programme of work to preserve the ability of law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies to obtain communications data and to intercept communications within the appropriate legal framework with its inherent safeguards and oversight.

"The Commission has been informed that the United Kingdom intends to legislate to ensure that it can avail of adequate communications capabilities and that the legislative approach will be compatible with the UK governments approach towards civil liberties. Details of this legislation would be announced in the UK Parliament in due course.

"The Commission will follow this process closely to ensure that the legislation that will be proposed will be consistent with the obligations of the UK under EU law, including that relating to data protection."

BBW will be watching as this story develops...