UK 'Snooper's Charter' Torn Up; Now What?

from the not-over-yet dept

Since the UK government published the draft version of its Communications Data Bill — better known as the “snooper’s charter” — with plans to store data about every British citizen’s emails, mobile calls and visits to Web sites, there has been almost total opposition to it from everyone else. Indeed, there has been growing resistance even within the UK government’s ranks, largely from the smaller of the coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats. Here’s what the party’s leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has been up to, as described by one of the Liberal Democrat MPs, Julian Huppert:

Nick refused to allow the Bill to go ahead, and forced the Home Office to publish the Bill as a draft, allowing us all to see what the Home Office were planning. Nick appointed Paul Strasburger and I onto a Committee to scrutinise it in detail. We went through the evidence, heard from many experts and published a cross-party report. This was damming of the Home Office proposals — it unanimously describe some of the Home Office information as ‘fanciful and misleading’.

Following Nick’s intervention and our report, the Home Office was given the chance to rethink. To build a proper case and look for proposals which were proportionate to the problem.

However, instead of trying to answer the huge range of criticisms of the proposed Bill, the Home Office simply insisted that such an intrusive system of surveillance was needed. As a result:

Nick has just this morning announced that he has killed off the Data Communications Bill, dubbed the “snooper’s charter”.

By withdrawing the support of the Liberal Democrats, Clegg makes it practically impossible to pass the Bill, since the UK government will lack the requisite majority to push it through. However, this is by no means the end of the story.

Clegg will be under huge pressure from the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and his Conservative party colleagues, to agree to some slightly watered-down proposals. Cameron will doubtless invoke all the usual reasons — tackling terrorism, paedophiles, organized crime etc. — knowing that this plays well with enough of the electorate that Clegg won’t be able to ignore it completely. So we can probably expect to see new plans in due course. The question then becomes to what extent they address the huge flaws in the original snooper’s charter, and whether they represent an approach that is truly “proportionate to the problem”, as the cross-party report puts it. If they don’t, the battle will doubtless begin again.

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Comments on “UK 'Snooper's Charter' Torn Up; Now What?”

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20 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: What, they're kicking Google out?

“Why is that okay if a supposedly commercial entity does it?”

It’s not necessarily OK (depends on how it’s used), but at least there’s a degree of separation between commercial entities and the government. That separation is also why the US government cares so much about CISPA.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Re: What, they're kicking Google out?

Why is that okay if a supposedly commercial entity does it?

It’s not, but:
A/ At least one has a choice whether to give the commercial entity the data. In contrast the government compels information whether one wants them to have it or not.

B/ In the UK there are, at least theoretically, limits as to what the commercial entity can do with the data gathered.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: What, they're kicking Google out?

The commercial entity only gets data you willfully provide them. Technically they don’t spy on you (ie: they don’t read your e-mails and stalk you as if you were some terrorist). I know you’ll accuse Google of doing so without any evidence while foaming like a mad dog but until you provide evidence it’s a no no. And usually one commercial entity stores only one part of what was mentioned, never all of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Information is power

Welcome and surprising news about a country whose government generally cares so little about privacy. Meanwhile, in the United States, the NSA collects information on all communications, despite the absence of a law allowing it to spy on Americans.

Information is power. The Internet facilitates the spread of information. For a government to maintain its monopoly over democratic self-rule, it is therefore essential for the government to have a surplus of information and for the people to have far less of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

the main reason for the ‘snooper’s charter’ is because the USA government want it brought in and the UK government is shit scared of doing anything to upset them (god knows why that is!). that would enable better information to supposedly be available and shared between the two nations, although i give no prizes for which nation would want to get the most and which one would want to give the least!

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