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Another of the infamous "Scrambling for Safety" public meetings has been organised for May 14 to assess government plans to retain and snoop on the communications and Internet activity of everyone in the UK.

The Home Office caused controversy last summer when it attempted to allow a long list of public authorities to access records of individuals' telephone and Internet usage. This "communications data" -- phone numbers and e-mail addresses contacted, web sites visited, locations of mobile phones, etc. - would have been available without any judicial oversight, under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

There has also been ongoing argument about government powers to force telephone companies and Internet Service Providers to keep copies of such communications data. Under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 the Home Secretary may require companies to store this data for long periods to allow later access by intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

The Home Office is now consulting over both issues before taking further action. "Scrambling for Safety 6" will bring together representatives from government, industry and human rights organisations to discuss the issues they raise with members of the public. Since 1997 the Scrambling for Safety meetings have played a pivotal role in the assessment of government security and privacy policy.

This is the only such meeting during the consultation period, and is free to attend. It is being organised by Privacy International and the Foundation for Information Policy Research, and is being hosted by the Department of Information Systems of the London School of Economics.

Simon Davies, Director of Privacy International, commented: "The government believes it has an automatic right to snoop on a wide spectrum of very sensitive communications information. The public will doubtless have a different view. The current consultations raise important questions about the right to privacy and the measures that must be taken to protect the individual. The proposals will face a stormy reception at the meeting".

Simon Davies of Privacy International can be reached for comment on 07958 466 552.


The Home Office consultation documents are at:
http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/crimpol/crimreduc/regulation/part1/consult.html (access)
http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/docs/comsdatacontacts.html (retention)

FIPR's "Surveillance and security" pages
Privacy International's wiretap page

WHAT: An open meeting on the Home Office data retention and access consultations, organised by Privacy International and the Foundation for
Information Policy Research.

WHEN: 1.30 pm - 5.30 pm, Wednesday 14 May 2003.


1.30 Introduction and background, (Simon Davies, Privacy International)
1.40 The current regime of data retention and access (Duncan Campbell)
1.55 Presentation of the consultation documents (Simon Watkin, Home Office)
2.15 EU actions, European Commission (invited)


2.30 Oversight landscape relating to Human Rights (Prof. Dowe Korff)
2.45 Authorisation and Oversight, Interception Commissioner Sir Swinton Thomas (invited)
3.00 Q&A


3.30 Legality of retention. Dan Cooper (Covington & Burling)
3.45 Technical and economic feasibility (Roland Perry, London Internet Exchange),
4.00 The European landscape (Tony Bunyan, Statewatch)
4.15 Purposes of data retention (Richard Clayton, Thus plc)
4.30 Q&A

5.00 Panel discussion
5.30 Close

WHERE: The Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House, LSE, Aldwych, London WC2

Admission is free but space is limited, so please RSVP to sfs6@fipr.org if you wish to attend.
Latest information is available at: http://www.fipr.org/events/sfs6.html

see also: Statewatch News online coverage: UK: Home Office consults on data retention and access to communications data: Report

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