After another day of confusion around the Government’s plans for increased surveillance powers, it now appears there is some back-tracking and the bill will only be a ‘draft’.
Here’s an update of some key points, while Privacy International have highlighted some serious issues with a briefing given to Liberal Democrat MPs.
- The Coalition Agreement pledged: “We will end the storage of internet and email records without good reason.”
- The plans are expected to be announced in the Queen’s speech, meaning it is almost impossible they become law before the Olympics
- Plans to install GCHQ’s own physical equipment to give them real-time access to data appear incompatable with proper judicial oversight of surveillance
- The new proposals may remove the ability of service providers to challenge requests for data – Google last year only complied with 63% of requests
- It is far from clear if this is technically possible, particularly where secure communications are used and it is impossible to expose ‘header’ information without also exposing content.
- This will cost taxpayers billions, but also mean businesses incur new costs at a time when the Government is asking them to invest in high-speed internet infrastructure
- The fact that this is not a ‘central’ database is being used as a smokescreen to detract from Lib Dem and Conservative promises in opposition
- The 7/7 Inquest Coroner’s report discusses the issues involved with large amounts of data and surveillance: One point states “It is unlikely these could have been detected by surveillance given the large number of untraceable “operational” phones used by the bombers and only attributed to them once their identities and details were known.”
Compare and contrast:
Jacqui Smith: “Communications data is used as important evidence in 95% of serious crime cases and in almost all security service operations since 2004.”
Theresa May: “Such data has been used in every security service terrorism investigation and 95 per cent of serious organised crime investigations over the last ten years.”
A final word from the Prime Minister, David Cameron:
“Faced with any problem, any crisis – given any excuse – Labour grasp for more information, pulling more and more people into the clutches of state data capture… And the Government doesn’t want to stop with the basic information. They want the most complex, important, personal information there is… Scare tactics to herd more disempowered citizens into the clutches of officialdom, as people surrender more and more information about their lives, giving the state more and more power over their lives. If we want to stop the state controlling us, we must confront this surveillance state.”