ISPs urged to provide police with emergency contacts

Internet service providers (ISPs) should provide 24-hour emergency contacts for police and security services, according to the ISP industry body the Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA).

The lobby group has produced guidelines for its members which it says will make it easier for law enforcement agencies to conduct investigations.

"Law enforcement agencies (LEAs) may wish to contact an ISPA member company to request assistance with an investigation," says the body's best current practice document. "ISPA members should make available contact details of a named individual or other contact point for these purposes."

"In urgent cases, a LEA may wish to contact a member company outside normal working hours. Members should, where possible, provide a 24hr point of contact for the purposes of responding to urgent requests for assistance," it said.

“ISPA already has excellent relations with the Home Office, Government officials and law enforcement agencies," said Jessica Hendrie-Liaño, Chair of the ISPA Council. "This document aims to strengthen these ties."

ISPA recommends that ISPs lodge details with the Home Office for inclusion on a list of contacts which is made available to public authorities.

Law enforcement agencies can obtain communications data from an ISP without a warrant, including website, email and IP addresses. But to intercept the content of communications, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) requires police, customs and security services to obtain a warrant from the Secretary of State or in emergency situations a senior Home Office official, not a court.