Ofcom directed to enable security agencies to access information to stop safe space for criminal communications


The UK Security Minister has directed Ofcom to ensure security and intelligence agencies, law enforcement and other emergency services have access to the information they need to keep the public safe.

This direction is intended to prevent the creation of a safe space for criminals and terrorists to communicate.

The direction has been made under section 5 of the Communications Act 2003. It requires that commercial multi-user gateways may only be licensed only if supplier can demonstrate that callers can be identified.

Commercial multi-user gateways make use of SIM cards that allow calls made through them to be directed through different operators. Calls done through these devices from fixed lines to mobiles are taken by the recipient’s network as if they are made by a mobile phone, and not through a fixed line.

The direction from the minister comes after Ofcom announced in July that it was required to exempt the devices from current licensing requirements under section 8(1) of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006.

Ofcom stated that the legislation stopped them from considering national security concerns.

As per the Communications Act 2003, ministers can give a directions about communications networks in view of national security concerns.

The new direction from the Security Minister is intended to ensure that any new regulations enabling the use of such devices will continue to protect national security. This implies that law enforcement, the security and intelligence agencies and emergency services can secure essential capabilities to probe into any suspected terrorists and criminals.