December 07, 2010 | Jim Killock

Home Office meeting confirms: Google won’t be subject to Interception laws

A meeting this morning between ORG, Privacy International, Justice, Liberty and the Home Office confirmed that the Home Office intends to extend interception oversight as narrowly as possible, which would exclude Google’s Streeview.

Instead, only communications providers like ISPs would be subject to regulation.

The Home Office offered no justification for keeping the fines to a paltry £10,000; and claimed that the Interception of Communications Commissioner is properly independent and capable of doing the job.

We reiterated worries that the IoCC has a culture of secrecy, are based within the Home Office and do not even receive independent legal advice, instead relying on Home Office lawyers. We pointed out that transparency would be vital for trust and reassurance that our rights are being protected.

The Home Office defended their decision to have a “narrow” consultation with industry, despite the fact that complaints from citizens to the EU Commission had forced them into the review in the first place: and despite the fact that this is regulation of transgressions against our fundamental human right to privacy.

At times our points were met with silence from Home Office officials.

But the EU Commission’s views are crucial here. If they are not satisfied by the suggested narrow remit, paltry fines and lack of independence of the Interception of Communications Commissioner, then the UK may still end up in court. The Home Office may not wish to listen to citizens – but they may have to listen to Europe.

ORG will now be writing to MPs, ministers and the EU Commission. Please respond to the Consultation.