The Problem with the Government's draft Investigatory Powers Bill
The UK Government has drafted a bill - referred to in some quarters as the "Snoopers' Charter" - which is designed to clarify regulation of communications monitoring and interception.
Whilst there is plenty of coverage of the political and human rights issues around this IP Bill, from a service providers' point of view a glaring issue has been identified: the concept of the "Internet Connection Record".
The Bill stipulates a 12 month requirement for retention of something described as an ICR - an "InternetConnection Record". This is described as a "record of the internet services that a specific device connects to – such as a website or instant messaging application – captured by the company providing access to the internet."
The problem is there's no such thing as an ICR - "InternetConnection Record". It's not a technical standard or even a recognised industry term. The wisest technical heads in ISPA UK (Internet Service Provider's Association) can't figure out what it is.. Some internet service providers who operate "gateway" servers known as proxies may be able to log this type of information, but business and wholesale internet service providers such as Venus provide an entirely transparent service for which there are no connection records of any kind. It is far from clear how many service providers may or may not carry this type of information, in part or in full.
For those providers such as Venus who provide a transparent service without any form of proxy gateway the only way to gather this information would be to implement a bulk traffic sniffing regime of the kind China is suspected to operate. The Bill is completely unclear about whether new forms of logging need to be added and whether bulk sniffing is to be mandated. One interpretation is simply that if you have these records you need to retain them - it's not clear what you do if you don't have records of this type at all.
The view of Venus and seemingly most industry colleagues is that the IP Bill needs to go back to the drawing board with the involvement of industry stakeholders - ISPA has proposed a technical steering committee.
We do not believe that establishing the UK as a place where your internet traffic will be "sniffed" is in the national interest.