It’s one of the thorniest issues possible when it comes to making law; how much of anyone’s life should the state be able to delve into at will? It goes to the heart of the power of the state and it all revolves around technology.
Debate is, quite literally in this case, raging. Some people are apoplectic at the prospect of the security services being able to view your headline internet activity without the oversight of a judge being necessary.
On the other side of that are those who feel that any such activity is hugely outweighed by the ability of those services to protect us all from terrorism and other classes of baddie because they can monitor what they are up to.
Out come the classic arguments, including “if you’re not doing anything wrong you have nothing to fear”, countered with “who’s policing the police?” and so on, and on, and on.
The Government argues that all it is asking for is the modern day equivalent of the telephone tap, which they can already get; that it’s bringing the law and police powers into line with the march of technology which sees messaging and voice apps used in place of those traditional copper lines.
It’s also the same attempt to change the law that was sent away by law makers a couple of years ago because they were not happy about the level of controls imposed on those seeking to use our data.
The argument now is that, under new proposals, the controls are far more robust.
Somewhere in there lies a solution. There has to be effective law enforcement that moves with the times, but a society which gives too much power to either politicians or unelected officers of various agencies could be on the slippery slope to the kind of state we hope never to see in Europe again.
What does all this mean for businesses? Data is in everything we do and it’s usually connected to the internet in a plethora of ways now. In that, not much will change.
It’s still every business’s responsibility to ensure it takes its best measures to protect data from unlawful intrusion or theft. If those measures ensure that even security services need to ask for access, as part of due and legal process, that is probably the way it should be.
The biggest demand from the law under debate could be on internet service providers, who will have to store our browsing records for up to 12 months. And in that instance the biggest concern is whether they will be able to guarantee our privacy. As one expert put it on BBC Radio 4 this week: “The best way to keep that information secure is not to store it in the first place.”
So as businesses we must keep an eye on this as it develops. The ramifications of a new law may not all yet be apparent, but in the meantime the spotlight is firmly on the fact that we all now live in an interconnected way and everyone is responsible for some part of the chain.