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‘Emergency’ UK government snooping bill catches UK ISPs off guard

UK ISPs have been caught with their trousers down by the new emergency Data Retention and Investigation Powers [DRIP] bill that forces them to hand over even more data to the government.

Related: David Cameron: “GCHQ snooping keeps us safe”

A number of telecommunications companies have told The Register that they were only given a gentle brief on the changes before the bill was rushed through Parliament as it becomes ingrained in UK law later this week.

ISPs, in particular, professed to being “blindsided” by the move that has already secured cross-party support and politicians have been at pains to point out that it in no way extends the powers afforded to them.

Two major concerns have been pointed out by telecommunications companies in relation to the bill, which makes amendments to the 2000 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act [RIPA].

The first of these concerns the plans for new legislation covering the way warrants are served on a person outside the UK that owns a company offering some form of telecommunications service to the UK public. Under the “extra-territoriality in Part 1 of RIPA” section, the bill mentions that any address in the British Isles can be used for such a purpose and warrants should be "available for inspection [whether to the person or to someone acting on the person's behalf].”

Section 5 of the bill, meanwhile, will be implemented to change the meaning of “telecommunications service” in RIPA with the following passage inserted:

“For the purposes of the definition of "telecommunications service" in subsection [1], the cases in which a service is to be taken to consist in the provision of access to, and of facilities for making use of, a telecommunication system include any case where a service consists in or includes facilitating the creation, management or storage of communications transmitted, or that may be transmitted, by means of such a system.”

An industry source quoted by The Register added that the new clause allows the government to intercept any type of communications data and publishers providing message boards could be subject to snooping.

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Related: Tim Berners-Lee on Prism: NSA snooping ‘threatens the foundations of democracy

The bill will be pushed through parliament unopposed tomorrow before being revisited by the next government in 2016 thanks to the “poison pill” inserted by deputy PM Nick Clegg.