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September 1, 2015

Are IT fears over Snoopers’ Charter overblown?

Poll by IP EXPO found most IT departments expect a rise in costs.

By Alexander Sword

A majority of UK IT departments believe that the Investigatory Power Bill, commonly known as the Snoopers’ Charter, will drive up their business costs.

58 percent of departments fear that business costs will increase, according to research published by IP EXPO.

According to a statement accompanying the survey, these concerns are driven by the costs of new technology to collect, store and monitor consumer data for up to 12 months, as the regulation is expected to require.

Carsten Casper, Research VP at Gartner, added that there could be indirect costs resulting from the legislation.

"In addition to the direct cost of installing monitoring technology, there is also the reputation damage and the loss of trust from consumers and citizens. While the government could potentially be convinced to help with the former, it’s much harder to quantify and mitigate the latter."

It is not currently clear how valid the concerns of the IT departments are, as the Home Office has so far provided few details of the legislation. However, if there are costs to business, they would presumably fall on communication service providers.

This would tally with David Cameron’s comments in June that "many groups, not just the Government, have a role to play in ensuring the right capabilities are in place to tackle those threats. It is particularly important to engage Communications Service Providers in developing solutions, given the technology supporting modern communications."

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The research also revealed that 52 percent of departments believe the IT security threat level is higher than it was last year, while 78 percent believe the Government needs to invest more in national cybersecurity.

Bob Tarzey, Analyst and Director at Quocirca, suggests that IT departments should create a constructive relationship with government over security.

"The IP Expo research also points to an element of businesses wanting to have their cake and eat it. They object to being required to report various things to government whilst wanting government to provide help with security – a bit of give and take co-operation will be needed – you help government and government will help you."

Tarzey adds that while the fears revealed in the survey may be based on speculation, it is constructive for stakeholders to air concerns.

"There is certainly a group of privacy activists out there that are happy to stir up FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) ahead of government legislation. Their outpourings are often overblown, but serve a purpose in getting government to consider its legislation more carefully."

An officer from the Home Office press department did not issue an official comment, although they raised concerns over the validity of the concerns considering the lack of information currently available about the bill.

The poll by Redshift Research, conducted online in June 2015 on behalf of IP EXPO Europe, surveyed 500 IT departments within UK businesses.

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