Government plans to force Internet Service Providers (ISP) to retain communications traffic data have been condemned by the All Party Internet Group, which described the plans as damaging, potentially unlawful and unhelpful in the fight against crime.
Following its public enquiry into government data retention plans, the Group attacked government plans, saying it was not "practical to retain all communications data on the off chance that it will be useful on day".
It has now called on the government to abandon the voluntary scheme, and enter into discussions with Communications Service Providers to develop an alternative, appropriate scheme.
The government has introduced legislation to reduce the threat it perceives from organised criminals using the internet.
Under the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 (ATCS), it plans to introduce a voluntary scheme for ISPs to retain data that may be useful in criminal investigations. A mandatory scheme has been threatened if ISPs do not sign up.
But the APIG report argued that the costs to service providers would be too prohibitive to make a voluntary scheme work.
And imposing a mandatory scheme "will do immense harm to the communication service provider [CSP] industry and will not actually achieve the results wished for by law enforcement", it concluded.
The report warned that the complexities of the legal landscape, where numerous pieces of legislation could apply, gave rise to "significant doubt that the whole scheme was legal".
In addition to the ATCS, courts would have to consider powers granted under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, as well as data protection and human rights legislation.
Brian White MP, treasurer of APIG, said: "This report includes a number of important recommendations as to how that regime can be improved for the benefit of the individual, law enforcement agencies and the communication provider industry."
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