UK orders data retention for ISPs

A report issued this week by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown will require phone and Internet companies to keep logs of Internet usage, and to make those logs available to the police.

According to a report by Out-Law, posted Friday on The Register, the new Communications Data Bill will implement the remaining part of the European Union's Data Retention Directive. The bill will extend the practice introduced by an October bill, which required telcos to begin keeping records of phone calls to and from both land lines and mobile phones.

The Communications Data Bill covers Internet usage, including email use and VoIP records.

According to statements from the Home Office, the intent of the bill is to provide law enforcement with the resources to investigate crimes involving internet use or communications. While the 2007 law included provisions for IP communications, those were not to be enacted until 2009. The new bill, says the office, brings those regulations to bear early.

The speculation is that, like last year's Data Retention Regulations, the new bill will require ISPs to retain the data for 12 months.

The bill requires that ISPs keep records of Internet user activity, but not the actual content of those communications. This is similar to the phone-related regulations, which required a record of when calls were made, and to whom and by whom, but not the content of the calls.

The information will be available to police with a warrant issued by a court.

ISPs say the law will have little impact on their businesses, as many of them already keep these sorts of records for the purpose of resolving billing disputes.

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