Interception Modernisation Programme: no, it’s not coming back

There’s been quite a lot online and in some traditional media in the last few days about how the government is supposedly resurrecting Labour’s plans for online snooping (the cuddly sounding Interception Modernisation Programme). Zoe O’Connell has covered this story well on her blog so here are a couple of quotes followed by a link to her full stories:

I dropped a note to the Home Office contacts I had, such that they are, asking if what has been announced as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review was in fact the Interception Modernisation Programme. For those who haven’t been following, that’s the innocent sounding name for the last government’s plan to build a database with details of every EMail, Facebook message, Instant Message, Internet phone call and anything else they can manage.

Today I had the reply: In short, no. It’s not the IMP.

This is the sort of responsible fact checking that you’d think the Telegraph might do before running a story on the topic. Or the Independent. Even the GuardianTwice. No, sorry, that’s three stories.

Of course, there will be more to it than that but the main message I took away from the 10 minute phone call was that what has been announced is not intended to be picking up from where they left off.

Indeed the pithy response I got when I asked Liberal Democrat sources about the story is that what is being considered now “isn’t a database at all”.

You can read the story in full in this pair of stories on Zoe’s blog: Interception Modernisation: The Technical Reality and State snooping project still dead, for now.

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8 Comments

  • Mark, you’re absolutely right. New Labour wanted a centralised database. The new centre-right government doesn’t want it centralised, they want it distributed. But it’s still a store of every message you send and every website you visit. It’s still a ‘modernisation’ of interception in that it’s a *huge expansion* of it.

    Worst of all, New Labour were only talking about using it for serious crime and terrorism prevention. Yet the Home Office is now talking about it being available for all sorts of law enforcement, even the prevention of disorder, presumably. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/10/26/interception_modernisation_home_office_price/

    Happy with that, Mark? Should Lib Dems be happy that IMP is ‘not coming back’ under the coalition’s “alternative” plans?

  • Oh well, much for reversing the infringements of civil liberties by Labour, so what’s the next promise the Coalition are going to renege on? ID cards perhaps? well maybe not. how about just making it compulsory to carry a biometric passport instead? after all it not an ID card is it.

  • Mark, Zoe, James, All,

    I think Mark’s right in that this isn’t a “wost case scenario.” However James acknowledges this in his defence of the Telegraph reporting, which I too find reasonably balanced on this occasion. I too am not comfortable with retention whoever holds the keys. Especially if the IMP includes, as has been rumoured, an element of direct secure data exchange between the ISP data store and law enforcement, under the pretence of improving “data security”

    I don’t think anyone knows enough about the actual plans yet, we need to know what storage is planned – if any. Noting the pledges quite rightly highlighted in the Lib Dem manifesto and the coalition agreement.

    Granted, scare stories are not helpful. But nor do I feel are headlines like “no, it’s not coming back.” On this I agree with James above – we’re playing semantics on significant liberty issues.

    This is a highly complex area, not just in the practicalities of implementation but on the legal definitions on what is allowed to be gathered, and the access rules – senior police officer, court warrant or sign-off from a secretary of state? Just one issue I’ve seen various views on is what constitutes traffic information when data is embedded in other protocols. I doubt the law as exists today really foresaw Facebook.

    I hope you will all continue to investigate further and keep the members and supporters updated on the government’s progress.

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