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MPs Call in Google, Facebook, ISPs For Snooping Law Briefing

MPs will meet with tech companies to discuss controversial new proposals

On by Thomas Brewster 3

Liberal Democrat MPs are set to meet with major tech companies on Monday to talk about the technical aspects of the controversial snooping laws proposed by the government, amongst other issues, TechWeekEurope has learned.

MP for Cambridge Julian Huppert said it was important to have discussions about the technical viability of the law. Representatives from Google, Facebook and major ISPs have agreed to attend.

Snooping laws

“The briefing will focus on the technical aspects because I believe that Lib Dem parliamentarians and policy makers need to understand the technical aspects of this as well as the principles and the liberties aspects,” Huppert, a Liberal Democrat MP, told TechWeekEurope.

“It’s a technical briefing on a whole range of issues.”

Huppert made his comments during a briefing at the London School of Economics, revealing he was asked by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg to call in tech companies for discussions.

The MP called for discussions with all relevant parties, not just technology companies. “If you just talk to Google or Facebook they will give you their line,” he added.

Much of the focus of Monday’s meeting will go towards determining whether it is possible to separate content data from communications data. The proposals from the government asserted that only details on who was interacting with who would be recorded and used by GCHQ.

Peter Sommer, a digital forensics expert and an expert witness in civil cases on computer-related issues, said he did not believe it was possible to separate such information. “You have to abandon the notion that you can separate comms data from content,” he added.

Questions will also be put to home secretary Theresa May on Tuesday, who faces a grilling at a Home Affairs Committee meet up. The surveillance laws have faced heavy criticism from various parties. Shami Chakrabarti, director of pressure group Liberty, said today the changes would be illiberal, unethical and illegal under EU law.

“They say the innocent have nothing to hide. The innocent have something to protect in terms of their privacy,” she said.

Ross Anderson, from Cambridge University, said some technology companies would benefit from the changes financially. He suggested BT would stand to gain as money would be pumped into the company to set up the data centres required to organise the traffic as required. Other ISPs would not be so lucky, however, as they are running over BT infrastructure.

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Thomas Brewster

Author: Thomas Brewster

Security Correspondent, TechWeekEurope
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3 replies to MPs Call in Google, Facebook, ISPs For Snooping Law Briefing

  • On April 20, 2012 at 8:28 am by Peter Sommer

    Your reporter wasn’t listening sufficiently carefully. The meeting on Moday to which Julian Huppert referred is for Liberal MPs to be briefed on the technical aspects of any revision of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, 2000, aka the “snooper’s charter”.
    I act as expert witness not for “the government” but for either the defence or the prosecution in criminal cases or for whoeever instructs me in civil cases.
    But his reporting on the difficulting of separating “comms data”from “content” and the implication that follow are accurate. My slides for the event can be downloaded from http://scramblingforsafety.org/2012/sf2012_sommer_commsdata_content.pdf

    • On April 20, 2012 at 9:03 am by Tom Brewster

      Hi Peter,

      Thanks for the response. Will update your role. As for the briefing, I spoke with Julian afterwards and he was fairly clear they were going to be talking with Facebook, Google and others about the proposed update. Will check with him again, of course.

      Best

      Tom Brewster

      • On April 22, 2012 at 9:01 pm by Tom Brewster

        Have checked Peter and confirmed the MPs will be discussing the proposed new laws with the above companies.

        Best

        Tom

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