One of the more critical definitions in the Investigatory Powers Bill is 'relevant communications data'. This determines the scope of the Secretary of State's power under Section 78 to direct telecommunications operators (both public and private networks) to generate, obtain and retain communications data including (but by no means limited to) so-called internet connection records (site browsing histories).
It is also one of the most complex definitions in the Bill. The draft Bill version consisted of 14 interlinked definitions and sub-definitions. If anything it has become even more complex in the Bill itself, now expanded to 16 definitions and sub-definitions. On the upside at least we now have only one definition of internet connection records.
For the draft Bill I attempted a visualisation of the web of definitions that make up 'Relevant communications data'.
Here is my updated version for the Bill, accompanied by a colour-coded reference list of the definitions: all 985 words of them.
Reference list of definitions
78(9): In this Part “relevant communications data” means communications data
which may be used to identify, or assist in identifying, any of the following—
(a) the sender or recipient of a communication (whether or not a person),
(b) the time or duration of a communication,
(c) the type, method or pattern, or fact, of communication,
(d) the telecommunication system (or any part of it) from, to or through which, or by means of which, a communication is or may be transmitted, or
(e) the location of any such system,
and this expression therefore includes, in particular, internet connection records.
54(6): In this Act “internet connection record” means communications data which -
(a) may be used to identify, or assist in identifying, a telecommunications service to which a communication is transmitted by means of a telecommunication system for the purpose of obtaining access to, or running, a computer file or computer program, and
(b) comprises data generated or processed by a telecommunications operator in the process of supplying the telecommunications service to the sender of the communication (whether or not a person).
223(2): “Communication”, in relation to a telecommunications operator, telecommunications service or telecommunication system, includes—
(a) anything comprising speech, music, sounds, visual images or data of any description, and
(b) signals serving either for the impartation of anything between persons, between a person and a thing or between things or for the actuation or control of any apparatus.
223(13): “Telecommunication system” means a system (including the apparatus comprised in it) that exists (whether wholly or partly in the United Kingdom or elsewhere) for the purpose of facilitating the transmission of communications by any means involving the use of electrical or electromagnetic energy.
223(11) and (12): “Telecommunications service” means any service that consists in the provision of access to, and of facilities for making use of, any telecommunication system (whether or not one provided by the person providing the service).
For the purposes of subsection (11), the cases in which a service is to be taken to consist in the provision of access to, and of facilities for making use of, a telecommunication system include any case where a service consists in or includes facilitating the creation, management or storage of communications transmitted, or that may be transmitted, by means of such a system.
223(10): “Telecommunications operator” means a person who—
(a) offers or provides a telecommunications service to persons in the United Kingdom, or
(b) controls or provides a telecommunication system which is (wholly or partly)—
(i) in the United Kingdom, or
(ii) controlled from the United Kingdom.
223(5): “Communications data”, in relation to a telecommunications operator, telecommunications service or telecommunication system, means entity data or events data—
(a) which is (or is to be or is capable of being) held or obtained by, or on behalf of, a telecommunications operator and—
(i) is about an entity to which a telecommunications service is provided and relates to the provision of the service,
(ii) is comprised in, included as part of, attached to or logically associated with a communication (whether by the sender or otherwise) for the purposes of a telecommunication system by means of which the communication is being or may be transmitted, or
(iii) does not fall within sub-paragraph (i) or (ii) but does relate to the use of a telecommunications service or a telecommunication system,
(b) which is available directly from a telecommunication system and falls within sub paragraph (ii) of paragraph (a), or
(i) is (or is to be or is capable of being) held or obtained by, or on behalf of, a telecommunications operator,
(ii) is about the architecture of a telecommunication system, and
(iii) is not about a specific person,
but does not include any content of a communication or anything which, in the absence of subsection (6)(b), would be content of a communication.
225(1): “data” includes data which is not electronic data and any information (whether or not electronic),
223(3): “Entity data” means any data which—
(a) is about—
(i) an entity,
(ii) an association between a telecommunications service and an entity, or
(iii) an association between any part of a telecommunication system and an entity,
(b) consists of, or includes, data which identifies or describes the entity (whether or not by reference to the entity’s location), and
(c) is not events data.
223(4): “Events data” means any data which identifies or describes an event (whether or not by reference to its location) on, in or by means of a telecommunication system where the event consists of one or more entities engaging in a specific activity at a specific time.
223(7): “Entity” means a person or thing.
225(1): “person” (other than in Parts 2 and 5) includes an organisation and any association or combination of persons
223(6): “Content”, in relation to a communication and a telecommunications operator, telecommunications service or telecommunication system, means any element of the communication, or any data attached to or logically associated with the communication, which reveals anything of what might reasonably be considered to be the meaning (if any) of the communication, but—
(a) any meaning arising from the fact of the communication or from any data relating to the transmission of the communication is to be disregarded, and
(b) anything which is systems data is not content.
225(4): In this Act “systems data” means any data that enables or facilitates, or identifies or describes anything connected with enabling or facilitating, the functioning of any of the following—
(a) a postal service;
(b) a telecommunication system (including any apparatus forming part of the system);
(c) any telecommunications service provided by means of a telecommunication system;
(d) a relevant system (including any apparatus forming part of the system);
(e) any service provided by means of a relevant system.
225(5): For the purposes of subsection (4), a system is a “relevant system” if any communications or other information are held on or by means of the system.
225(1): “apparatus” includes any equipment, machinery or device (whether physical or logical) and any wire or cable