ICC publishes recommendations for lawful intercept requirements

  • 8 July 2010

An International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) statement on lawful intercept published today provides practical recommendations for ensuring that law enforcement has the tools it needs, while also ensuring that those tools are consistent with other important legal obligations related to information security, human rights and privacy, as well as the goals of promoting innovation, competition, economic development and international trade.

To foster an approach that is consistent with a wide range of government, industry and customer goals, ICC provides eight practical and specific recommendations to help governments achieve an optimum approach to lawful intercept obligations while minimizing adverse effects on customers and service providers alike.

For decades communication service providers around the world have been subject to legal obligations to support the capability known as lawful intercept – the interception of communications in the course of transmission between two or more parties, in support of valid law enforcement investigative purposes. But in recent years, the growth of Internet protocol communications has led many countries to impose overly complex, untargeted and costly requirements that lead not only to regulatory uncertainty but also create tension with other important legal and policy goals in the communications market, such as innovation, competition, information security, privacy and human rights.

“These issues impact upon businesses across all sectors and geographies, both as users and as service providers,” the ICC statement says. “Some countries have started to adopt ‘one-size-fits-all’ lawful intercept obligations on all or most communications service providers. This indiscriminate application is neither proportionate to reasonable need, nor sustainable to most competitors.”

Seeking to balance the valid interests of business, law enforcement agencies, communications service providers and consumers, the ICC recommendations seek to present a framework that is fair and transparent to the interested stakeholders, and would provide law enforcement authorities with all or most lawful intercept capabilities that they reasonably require, while minimizing adverse effects on other legal and policy goals.

“Because many countries are evaluating this area of regulation, the recommendations are both timely and also relevant to have a positive impact on the implementation process,” said Eric H. Loeb, Vice President, International External and Regulatory Affairs, AT&T, and Co-Chair of the ICC Commission on E-Business, IT and Telecoms Task Force on Internet and Telecoms Infrastructure and Services that prepared the recommendations.

“ICC looks forward to constructive discussions with governments, to ensure that countries consider not only valid law enforcement needs, but that they take a narrowly-tailored approach to achieve consistency with other important legal obligations and policy goals. This balanced approach will strengthen confidence, capabilities and opportunities in the communications sector, both among service providers and customers.”

Throughout the statement ICC calls for a targeted and narrowly-tailored approach. For example, because criminals and terrorists very rarely conduct communications of interest to law enforcement agencies via private business networks, the ICC statement recommends that lawful intercept obligations on communication service providers serving only enterprise customers in a given country should remain minimal, and proportionate to realistic threats.

“The overall goal should be to ensure that there is a level competitive playing field for which law enforcement agencies require only the capabilities they need from a communication service provider, and that targeted lawful intercept requirements do not unfairly disadvantage any particular communications service providers or disrupt market entry decisions,” the ICC statement says.