The Regulations will apply to phone providers by September of this year, subject to Parliament's approval. To comply with last year's EU Directive on Data Retention, these rules must be extended or new rules passed to mandate the retention of internet data, including Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) data, by 15th March 2009.
The Regulations propose that phone companies retain information on calls made, though not the content of calls, for 12 months, the same length of time for which some companies currently keep data under a voluntary code.
That voluntary code also applies to ISPs and suggests a retention period of six months for internet data. The mandatory retention period to be introduced for internet data is still unknown.
Data retention is a crime fighting measure, and each EU country can choose a period of between six months and two years for which companies must keep information. They can also choose which law enforcement bodies have access to the data.
The data retention laws will mean that across Europe police forces will have access to records showing what telephone calls were made from a particular number, when and for what duration. In the case of mobile phone calls they will also have the information about where the call was made, which the network can provide based on what 'cell' of the network is used.
The proposed Regulations give the Home Office a discretionary power to pay for data retention and retrieval costs. "The Secretary of State may reimburse any expenses incurred by a public communications provider in complying with these Regulations," they state. "Such reimbursement may be conditional on the expenses having been notified to the Secretary of State and agreed in advance."
The Home Office's consultation process will run until 11th June, and the Directive stipulates that the mobile and fixed line phone rules must be in place by 15th September.