Network Security

Investigatory Powers and Digital Economy Bills could threaten economy

Now that the Investigatory Powers (IP Bill) and Digital Economy (DEB) Bills are set to become law, some are predicting that both bills could hurt the UK economy.

Some experts have suggested that the IP Bill is going to contradict privacy laws that are incoming with the EU's General Data Protection Regulation.

Parts of the IP Bill, mandate that UK ISPs must keep a record of all UK citizens' online activities, including which services their customers' devices connect to, and which messaging apps they use. Likewise, law enforcement agencies have the ability to intercept ‘bulk data sets' of data  from an entire area, for example, Nottingham.

As part of Schedule 4 of the act, this data is then accessible by a total of 48 government agencies, including the likes of, the Gambling Commission and Food Standards Agency.

Security experts like Richard Stiennon, chief strategy officer of the Blancco Technology Group explained: “For an organisation to be in compliance with both the Investigatory Powers Act and the EU GDPR, it will have to notify subscribers of the type of data being collected and its intended purpose.”

Stiennon said: “The Act makes it illegal for a company to reveal when these types of surveillance have been used. One of the repercussions of the Act is that it will reduce trust in UK telecoms and equipment vendors.”

Emma Wright, commercial, regulatory telecom and technology partner at law firm Kemp Little agrees with Stiennon, and told “The issue at hand here goes back to one highlighted by the Schremes case, who took Facebook to court, as his data was being processed and stored in a country with lesser data protection standards then those where he resides.”

Wright said: “I believe we are headed to a world where the IP Bill will cause problems with regards to data flows between countries post-Brexit, as Europeans will be cautious trading with a country that has such extreme surveillance laws, as those in other countries will not be able to guarantee they will be compliant with the GDPR.”

Concluding, Wright said: “The only way I believe we could solve this is if ‘data' is made the Fourth Pillar of the European Union, which all European countries must adhere to. The idea is that in order to be a member of the EU, you must subscribe to all three, and data will have to be the fourth standard to ensure all countries play fairly.”

As the Digital Economy Bill moves to Report stage in the House of Commons, the Internet Service Providers Association, which represents the UK internet industry, has said that it believes forcing ISPs to block adult sites that do not age verify has the potential to significantly harm the UK's digital economy.

The ISPA said in a statement: “The UK internet industry takes online safety very seriously. From rolling out free and easy-to-use parental controls to education and awareness campaigns and the creation of the Internet Watch Foundation to tackle child abuse images, the UK is rightly viewed as a leader in this area.”

Adding: “This is why we supported the Government's original age verification policy, for targeting the most appropriate part of the internet value chain, namely the adult sites and the financial services that underpin them, addressing the problem at source.”

Also, the ISPAs members are said to be investing significantly in their networks to ensure the UK has the internet services the UK economy and society needs now and in the future. Claiming the inclusion of web blocking powers with little thought or consultation risks undermining plans to boost investment in networks.

The Government previously said web blocking is a policy that is “disproportionate”, that technical measures can be easily circumvented and legal content could be blocked my mistake, the ISPA said it is, “concerned and disappointed [legislation] has gone down this path.”

ISPA Chair James Blessing warned MPs on the damage the Bill could cause, saying: “the Digital Economy Bill is all about ensuing the UK continues to be a digital world leader, including in relation to internet safety. This is why ISPA supported the Government's original age verification policy for addressing the problem of underage access of adult sites at source. Instead of rushing through this significant policy change, we are calling on government to pause and have a substantive discussion on how any legal and regulatory change will impact the UK's dynamic digital economy and the expectations and rights of UK internet users.”

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