Government to trial scheme to record citizens’ internet connections

Ability to compel telecoms firms to gather data was introduced in Investigatory Powers Act

Credit: Descrier/CC BY 2.0

This summer the government is to run trials of its plans to operate a national record of citizens’ internet activity.

The Investigatory Powers Act that passed into law in 2016 – often referred to by critics as the Snoopers’ Charter – gave government the power to compel communications providers to record various data on their customers.

Government guidance claims that the data does not constitute a user’s comprehensive browsing history and “would not reveal every web page that they visit or anything that they do on a web page”.

“An internet connection record (ICR) is a record, comprised of a number of items of communications data, of an event about the service to which a customer has connected to on the internet, such as a website or instant messaging application,” it added.

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For a six-month period beginning in August, the government is to work with one or more telecoms firms to “run a limited ‘live trial’ of ICR capability”. 

The ICR programme is being delivered by the Home Office, with support from the National Crime Agency – which will run the trial from its London headquarters. 

The two organisations have issued a contract notice seeking a supplier that can support their work over the coming months by providing “a network appliance integration and bespoke software-development service”. The winning bidder will be required to perform about 40 days’ of work spread across an eight-month period up to the end of March 2020.

Alongside this, the NCA has issued another contract notice seeking a firm that can “conduct analysis and enrichment of the data outputs of the ICR trial and provide this to officers for intelligence reporting”. 

The NCA said that the trial needs to demonstrate “the technical achievability and operational value” of internet connection records.

“The service provider must therefore have experience analysing network flow, and be comfortable with a range of analytical tools including Kibana, Tableau, i2, SPSS, [and] Excel in order to assess the data outputs and transform them into a useable format for officers,” it added.

Bids for both contracts are open until midnight on 9 July, ahead of an estimated contract start date of 31 July.


Sam Trendall

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