Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Orange UK


  1.1  Orange welcomes the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into "a surveillance society". With mobile phone penetration at over 80% of the UK population and broadband penetration continuing to grow, the role of electronic communications has become an important factor in building a case of evidence in the fight against crime and terrorism.

  1.2  Despite the value of such data, it is vital that government and its agencies meet the right balance between protecting individuals' privacy and accessing data in an appropriate way to help them in their investigations. It is also important that commercial organisations have processes in place to ensure that privacy is protected in meeting the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998.

  1.3  Orange is a key brand of the France Telecom Group, providing mobile, broadband, fixed, business and entertainment services across Europe. It is one of the world's leading telecommunications operators with more than 168 million customers on five continents. In June 2006, Orange merged with Wanadoo, a leading Internet Service Provider (ISP) and now, under a single brand, offers mobile, broadband and multi-play offers, including digital television and home phone services.

  1.4  We recognise that, as a leading UK communications provider with over 16 million customers, and as part of the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI), we need to co-operate and assist government and its agencies in their work. Orange has a dedicated Government Liaison, Disclosures & Abuse Management Team that works with both government and law enforcement agencies to provide the necessary information needed to aid an investigation.


  2.1  In line with the Data Protection Act, Orange holds data for as long as is required for business purposes. We have strict processes to protect this data and the privacy of our customers (see below). We are also required to hold specific data as defined and required under the Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2007 (which entered into force on 1 October 2007).for a period of 12 months.

  2.2  Orange provides data to law enforcement and government agencies in accordance with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). RIPA creates a legal and fully regulated basis for the demand by Law Enforcement and Government agencies for the disclosure of subscriber information, itemised billing and other communications data. However, in cases such as dropped 999 calls, we may respond to requests for subscriber details under data protection legislation in order to speed up this process. RIPA also allows for requests to be prioritised in line with the ACPO DCG (Association of Chief Police Officers Data Communications Group) National Prioritisation Grading system. In "life at risk" situations, a request can be made verbally under RIPA, and we will provide real time location information to the requesting agency 24-hours a day. The information is not an exact location but provides a good starting point for the police in their search for a missing or abducted person.

  2.3  RIPA places an obligation on the authority requesting the information (and not the organisation which holds the data ie Orange) to prove the proportionality and justification for the request and the subsequent disclosure of the data. Orange is fully supportive of the Single Point of Contact (SPOC) procedure which facilitates the acquisition and disclosure of communications data between service providers and law enforcement agencies. However, we believe SPOCs could be given a higher profile within all law enforcement agencies as communications data becomes more important in criminal and terrorist investigations. We are working with ACPO DCG to address this issue.

  2.4  The oversight of these powers is provided by the Interception Commissioner. Orange believes RIPA provides an appropriate balance between civil liberties and security. However, this is an issue that needs to be kept under constant review as technology changes. A careful balance needs to be met between maintaining the privacy of our customers and providing essential data for criminal and terrorist investigations. Orange works within the regulatory framework (see above) to maintain this balance and, whilst we regularly discuss this with government and law enforcement agencies, we believe it is the Government's, rather than a commercial operator's, decision to ascertain whether it adequately meets the balance between security and privacy.


  3.1  Orange takes its responsibility to protect the confidentiality of customer's personal data very seriously. Oversight of this is regulated and enforced by the Information Commissioner and the Government is committed to strengthening its powers to give it access to inspect our processes to ensure we are doing this.

  3.2  Orange employs a number of techniques to ensure customers are safeguarded from attempts to fraudulently access account information. We also use a number of processes to monitor our staff's access of customer accounts to ensure such access is warranted. We regularly review and adapt our information security procedures to ensure they are effective.

  3.3  Orange is certified to the International Standard for Information Security (ISO27001), and audits are run against this every six months to ensure we are compliant. We therefore continuously monitor, evaluate and improve our controls across the full scope of our business and we have a focus on customer data ahead of any other type of information.

  3.4  Orange does not send large amounts of sensitive customer data by internal or external mail. In cases where we have to send data by these methods, the data is generally less sensitive in its nature or composition, or we protect it by encryption techniques for electronic media and by other physical methods for other media types. Most of our data is moved internally by automated transfers between machines and systems, and these transfers are within our corporate perimeter with its security measures. Such flows are protected where appropriate, depending on the type of data and the aggregation of data we need to send, and where such protection can be applied within system limitations.

February 2008

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