Ian Batten igb at batten.eu.org
Tue Jun 19 13:05:04 BST 2012

On 19 Jun 12, at 1230, Roland Perry wrote:

> In article <DE9C1360-E412-4B2A-99B6-ED87A7413477 at batten.eu.org>, Ian Batten <igb at batten.eu.org> writes
>> If the beef isn't extraction of communications data from content
>> data without an interception warrant, what is?
> It has to be "moving the dividing line beyond the first forward slash".

I'm not so sure.  That's codified in RIPA S.2(9)(d):

> any data identifying the data or other data as data comprised in or attached to a
> particular communication, but that expression includes data identifying a computer
> file or computer program access to which is obtained, or which is run, by means of
> the communication to the extent only that the file or program is identified by 
> reference to the apparatus in which it is stored.

but the introduction to the draft says:

> Communications data from [new internet services including voice over internet,
> online gaming and instant messaging] is not as accessible as data from 
> older communications systems like ‘fixed line’ telephones. Although some internet 
> data is already stored by communication service providers, other data is neither 
> generated nor obtained because providers have no business need for it.

The trailing part of a URL (leaving aside the issue of encryption, because the bill interestingly doesn't mentioned it at any point) is trivial to obtain: indeed, you need to actively discard it in order not to store it.  

But fishing out information about which parties are communicating via Skype, WoW and IM requires going into the content stream, because those protocols don't segregate communications data from content data either temporally (as SMTP and HTTP do, because you can identify when in the protocol exchange it stops being comms data and starts becoming content) or spatially (by having a separate control channel as some audio and voice protocols do).   In the protocols being discussed, there's a single TCP stream between the client and the server, in which is intermixed unambiguous content and what is now trying to be argued as being communications data.

> I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing (from the point of view of being able to prosecute offenders), the "first forward slash" idea is simply the best compromise at the time given that the Parliamentary Draftsman was disinclined to start including definitions from RFCs in an Act.

I think that's a side issue, to be honest.  I think the new legislation is entirely about extracting who's talking to whom via WoW and IM.  I base this on the plain reading of the introduction :-)


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