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

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe’s Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

MPs will meet with tech companies to discuss controversial new proposals

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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