The Department of Justice and Equality have published a policy document on amending the law relating to the interception of communications. The purpose of interception legislation is to assist in the fight against organised crime and to protect the security of the State.
Irish legislation relating to interception is out-of-date and needs to be amended to provide for lawful interception of email and other forms of communication over the internet. Interception is controlled, to a limited extent, by the Postal and Telecommunications Services Act 1983, and the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications (Regulation) Act 1993. That legislation is restricted to Telecoms and Postal Service providers (i.e. voice calls, text messages and postal packets).
The Government intends to introduce approximately 50 amendments to the current regime, with the primary aim of ensuring that communications services delivered over the internet are covered by our lawful interception legislation. Accordingly, the definition of “information society services” will be amended to cover “internet referencing services, social media“, and “any other entity providing a publicly available means of communication over an electronic communications network.” The definition of “interception” will also be amended to reflect modern communications characteristics. It will essentially be “an action, the effect of which is to make some or all of the content of a communication available to a person“.
The Government intends to request the Law Reform Commission to carry out a review of the law on investigatory powers relating to communications, which will give interested parties an opportunity to provide their perspective on this issue. It is likely, however, that the LRC report will come after the current proposals have been implemented.