In a welcome move, Nick Clegg announced his opposition to the communications data bill (CDB) last week. His article in the Telegraph listed five reasons why CDB went “too far” in its attempted legislation. Among those reasons was the ease with which competent criminals could sidestep the effects of CDB and the alarming precedent the UK government would be setting for other countries in the scope of its jurisdictional claims. He’s not on his own; these arguments and many more have been brought against CDB from a wide range of opposition.
Clegg finishes the article by suggesting a number of steps that could be taken in place of CDB. Increased data navigation training for police personnel and improving links with other international jurisdictions governing internet service providers are two of the ideas he mentions. Whilst his rejection of CDB is clearly in the public interest, the counter proposals he brings up don’t really solve the long-term problem.
It’s not enough to just stop this bill; the same sort of excessively invasive laws were proposed by previous governments without appearing in their manifestos. To stop the Home Office bringing it back yet again, we need some new legislation which meets some of the needs addressed by CDB but in a way which doesn’t blindly trample the rights of the average internet citizen or company.
Open Rights Group‘s new digital surveillance report offers a much more thorough and workable outlook. It gathers papers from a range of expert views and ultimately makes ten recommendations for policy makers to take on board. A clear criticism by the Joint Select Committee was that the Home Office was not clear which parts of the proposed Bill were truly essential and which parts were over-reach or for the purpose of obfuscation. This new report offers a basis for joint discussions, which the Home Office now needs to embrace. If new legislation can be drafted built on the principles of this report, we can hopefully avoid altogether future iterations of the Snoopers’ Charter.
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