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In April 2012 reports appeared in the press suggesting that the Government was proposing new legislation to require communication service providers (CSPs) to store all communications data. The intention is to maintain the UK’s capability to lawfully intercept and exploit data when fighting crime and terrorism. The Queen’s Speech of May 2012 confirmed that a draft Bill is to be introduced. The Government emphasises that the content of communications would not be stored, only communications data (records of who contacted whom, when, from where, in what technical circumstances and for how long). In the absence of detail, commentators have assumed that this is a reference to the Communications Capabilities Development Programme (CCDP), which already appears in the Home Office Business Plan. The CCDP, in turn, bears similarities to an initiative under the previous Government, the Interception Modernisation Programme.

This note looks at the history of the two programmes, cites the justifications given by successive governments for what critics have dubbed a “snooper’s charter” and details some of the objections that have been raised against surveillance of this sort.

Of related interest:

Interception of communications (SN 6332) [summarises powers available under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA)]

Privacy on the internet (SN 5730)

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