Is your MP on the naughty list?

outoftownSeveral MPs have contacted us to ask why the Communications Data Bill is such a big deal – so how helpful that this week the perfect example came along!

The Government claims the bill is necessary to address three data types: Reconcile IP addresses, capture weblogs and to deal with third party data.

In practice, what would this mean? Well, the first data type is required to give the police “the ability to reconcile an Internet Protocol (IP) address to an individual”ITteam

So, where you have a mobile phone operator that shares a small number of IP addresses, it has to allocate these to its customers as they are needed. In a few minutes, the same IP could be used by several customers so you need to try log which customer is using an address when.

Alternatively, if you were in a big office block, you might all share an internal network. One IP to the outside world, but lots of people using it. So you need to store more data to help identify the individuals.

So, why might our MPs take issue with this?

Well, this week it was revealed Parliamentarians have been visiting an ‘adulterous affairs’ website more times in a single month than the official websites for the Treasury, Ministry of Justice and Department for Education. That’s 52,000 hits in seven months for ‘Out of Town Affairs’.

Now, currently we don’t know who in Parliament was using it. Had the Draft Communications Data Bill become law, then the ISP that serves Parliament would not only have known this, but they would have been legally obliged to store it for 12 months. This also highlights the absurdity of saying that the full URL is content (for example, // but that // is communications data – it’s still pretty obvious what you’ve been doing!

In the evidence presented to the draft Communications Data Bill Committee several individuals warned about the risk of a ‘honey pot’ effect, when data is collected into any sort of database and creates an incentive for people to try and attack that data. Lord Strasburger noted that this data would be a “honey pot for casual hackers, blackmailers, criminals large and small, all over the world, and foreign states.”

This story which has raised a giggle or two certainly highlights an important issue when it comes to Communications Data. The prospect of having all of our web usage stored in a single database enabling it to be filtered and examined at a later date would seem unnerving to the best of us, never mind those tempted by an extra marital affairs.