UK email law: ISPs to log emails for a year


A European Commission directive is causing a stir. From the BBC:

From March all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will by law have to keep information about every e-mail sent or received in the UK for a year.

The firms will have to store the information and make it available to any public body which makes a lawful request, which could include police, local councils and health authorities.

The Home Office insists the data, which does not include e-mails’ content, is vital for crime and terror inquiries.

Understandably, human rights groups, online advocacy groups, and regular users are criticising this pretty harshly.

My first gut reaction is: hands off my email.

My second reaction is: phone companies must, by law, keep records of calls made over their networks and provide details (or even live intercepts) in response to lawful requests by authorised bodies. Checking phone records happens all the time, in nearly every country. You see it in cop dramas all the time, and no one blinks an eye.

My third reaction is: postal services don’t keep records of all the letters and packages you send or receive via their service. Is email more like a phone call or a letter? Does it matter? I think they’re more like phone calls, since there are other, public, bits of equipment and network involved in sending emails.

My fourth reaction is: don’t ISPs do this already?

My fifth reaction is: if the government tries to maintain all that info in a giant database, rather than leave it with ISPs and request it when needed, it’ll be expensive and overwhelming. I don’t doubt it might become useful in investigations, but I’m not sure whether it’ll be worth the cost.

And yes, since the rule is that only the transmission details, and not the content, of the emails must be logged the implication of the image I chose to accompany this post is misleading. Tough, it looks good.


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