Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Internet Services Providers' Association (ISPA)

Introduction to ISPA

  The Internet Services Providers' Association (ISPA) was established in 1995 as a trade association to represent Internet Services Providers (ISPs) in the UK. ISPA promotes competition, self-regulation and the successful development of the UK Internet industry.

  ISPA was instrumental in the establishment of the Internet Crime Forum, which engenders co-operation between the ISP Industry and UK Law Enforcement. ISPA also supports the work of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to combat child pornography on the Internet. In addition ISPA members have been contributing to the work of the Government's Task Force for the Protection of Children on the Internet.

  For a list of members or other information about ISPA, please consult the website:

What is an ISP?

  An Internet Service Provider (ISP) provides Internet users with a physical connection to the Internet, allowing them to exchange information with millions of other individuals across the globe. Well known ISPs include BT Internet, AOL and Freeserve. The term Communication Service Provider (CSP) is used to explain companies who offer telephone or Internet communication services.

How the Bill will affect UK ISPs

  Under current data protection legislation, ISPs, like all other businesses operating in the UK, are not permitted to retain personal information about their customers for any longer than is necessary for their own business purposes. While this includes billing, it might also include marketing, anti-fraud efforts, and network security.

  ISPA believes that the Anti-Terrorism Bill will contain the following provisions:

    (1)  Will "allow" CSPs to retain data for law enforcement purposes.

    (2)  Will provide statutory backing for the establishment of a "Code of Practice" for CSPs to establish a system of voluntary data retention.

    (3)  A reserve power to go back to Parliament to review the situation "if the code is not operating effectively".


  ISPA UK lends its unequivocal support for the fight against crime and terrorism.

  ISPA members have considerable experience of assisting law enforcement through the provision of relevant and useful information for the fight against crime. The UK is currently held up as a model for successful co-operation between the ISP Industry and Law Enforcement, and ISPA is committed to continuing this pattern.

  However, ISPA is concerned that Parliament must take care to ensure that any plans to legislate for the retention of data by CSPs to assist law enforcement must be effective and realistic.

  In particular, there are two key factors that must be addressed:

    —  The powers accorded to Law Enforcement must allow them to obtain information which is relevant to assisting their investigation, and to do so as quickly as possible;

    —  The ISP Industry shares the Government's commitment to fighting crime and terrorism, and we must also share in the consideration of a realistic, reasonable and proportionate frame of the costs involved in using communications data to assist law enforcement.

Need for further debate on value of extended traffic data logs

  ISPA calls on the Government to reaffirm their commitment to holding an open, balanced and informed debate on the development of the voluntary code to address the retention of data by CSPs.

  The Internet Industry currently provides Law Enforcement agencies with a range of useful services in order to ensure maximum effectiveness in the fight against crime. Subscriber information and contact details, access to traffic data stored, and interception access are all currently available and regulated under the RIP Act.

  However there has been little to no public debate about the benefits of increased data retention which the Government is proposing. ISPA has no knowledge of any extensive report or evidence to illustrate the shortcomings of the current legal and operational situation for Law Enforcement access to CSP traffic data. Therefore the Industry calls for more research into what kinds of information would lead to substantial improvements in Law Enforcement investigation results.

Reserve Powers

  ISPA is committed to ensuring that the voluntary code of practice for CSPs is successful in meeting the reasonable and proportionate requirements of Law Enforcement, and therefore does not believe that implementation of the reserve powers will become necessary.

  The Industry has consistently shown its commitment to responsible and constructive co-operation with Law Enforcement. ISPA seeks assurances from the Government that the method by which the success of the Code will be judged to have failed or succeeded will be agreed through wider consultation, including representatives with a good technical knowledge and commercial understanding of the Internet.

Information must be recent to be useful to Law Enforcement

  All investigation services will testify that the most useful information is that which is up to date. In particular it is widely accepted that interceptions of communications are the most useful tool.

  An extension of current data retention practices would not lead to a significant improvement in the effectiveness of investigations. It is clear that an increase in the volume of information CSPs need to store and retrieve would lead to a longer delay in response time to requests.

The retention, storage and retrieval of data comes at a cost

  The extended storage of communications data would carry a huge cost. The Government must be open and honest about how any extended data retention would be funded.

  Any budgets allocated must be considered rationally and with maximum effectiveness in mind. ISPA does not believe that the spending of huge sums on this area, by any parties, would lead to more effective investigations.

Data Protection concerns

  The involvement of the UK's Information Commissioner is crucial to assure a balance between the interests of public security and liberty.

  The European Commission has set out that "any legislative measure at national level that may provided for the retention of traffic data for law enforcement purposes would need to fulfil certain conditions: the proposed measures need to be appropriate, necessary and proportionate, as required by Community law and international law, including Directive 97/66/EC and 95/46/EC, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights of 4 November 1950 and the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Individuals with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data of 28 January 1981."

  If you require any more information, please do not hesitate to contact Michelle Dow at ISPA Secretariat.

November 2001

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