I wrote last week about amendments to European telecoms legislation that seemed to contain some very dangerous language bringing in all kinds of dodgy powers and requirements. As well as sending the letter I copied to that posting, I also contacted one of the sponsors of the amendments in question directly, Dr Syed Kamall.
Although I did not manage to reach him personally, I did speak to his helpful assistant, who passed on my concerns. With an impressive promptness that gives me renewed hope for the political system, I then received an email from Dr Kamall, who assured me:
It was not my intention with my amendments, for "the security of an electronic communication equipment" to be interpreted as "the security of DRM preventing,detecting, or intercepting IP infringements as suggested by laquadrature.
My intention was simply to allow traffic data to be processed to ensure the security of electronic communications networks, services and equipment.
Even more helpfully, he stated:
The legal services of the internal market committee have advised that laquadrature have misunderstood amendments, but have asked for clarification from the Civil Liberties Committee to see if that a possible unintended consequence of my amendment would be to allow DRM and interception of IP infringements. If this is an unintended consequence of my amendment, I would not have tabled this amendment and will seek to withdraw it or have it deleted in plenary.
Of course, that still leaves ground for concern – not about the intentions of Dr Kamall, but about the way in which the proposed amendments might be co-opted by the media industry against ISPs and their customers. It is clearly vital that the proposed changes be drafted as tightly as possible to avoid any function drift.
Interestingly, there seems to be a bit of a tussle going on within the European Parliament over this stuff:
Proposed new rules on the management of traffic data for electronic services have sparked controversy in the European Parliament, potentially delaying the final vote on the Telecoms package.
In its final vote this week on the parts of the Telecoms package that fall under its authority, Parliament's Internal Market Committee (IMCO) was supposed to include an opinion issued last June by the Civil Rights Committee (LIBE).
But, despite a common practice of automatically including the contributions of associated committees in the final text, this time the IMCO Committee declared it was unable to accept the amendments presented by the LIBE Committee.
Confusingly, it seems to be the Civil Rights Committee that is arguing for more snooping, and the Internal Market Committee that is fighting against it:
the LIBE Committee argues that electronic service providers need to process traffic data "to preserve and enhance the security of their services and the network". It says the security of bank transactions or personal health records transmissions could be hampered without more clarification and better consistency of this procedure in EU data protection rules.
The IMCO Committee does not share this position and is therefore expected to request that the plenary vote on the Telecoms package be postponed, currently foreseen for the first week of September.
So I don't know about you, but I remain deeply bemused by this proposed legislation: it's still not clear to me who is fighting for what, and why – or what the real consequences will be. Perhaps things will be come less mud-like when we get nearer the plenary vote.