On How UK's Political Elite Shoved Through A Data Retention Bill

from the dangerous dept

Politicians are supposed to represent the will of the public. It rarely works that way in practice, but the strongest demonstration of that may be what’s happening in the UK with this new data retention bill. We wrote about it earlier, but MP Tom Watson has more details on how this is an “erosion of political trust,” in which leaders of multiple parties in Parliament worked together to do a deal that clearly goes against the will of the public, and then sought to shove it through with no debate at all.

As Watson notes, there’s no reason to nitpick about what’s in the draft bill, because it’s basically guaranteed to become law at this point:

The bill was published in draft form a few hours ago. It’s pointless attempting to scrutinise it because, thanks to the secret deal, we know it will be law by the end of next week.

However, he notes that the bill clearly expands surveillance of the public, in direct contrast to what the EU Court of Justice ruling, which “prompted” this new law, said:

The judgment said the previous legislation was not “necessary and proportionate”. The draft bill does use these words, but it’s barely a nod to the court’s requirements. The judgment said clearly that the mass retention of the data of every citizen was not proportionate. This legislation ignores this, allowing its retention for 12 months.

The bill says that new regulations may be passed to restrict the use of retention notices, but these are not set out. And these new restrictions won’t be passed by all parliamentarians but as statutory instruments through small committees of a select few MPs.

The really damning point is that this is just a bunch of political elites agreeing to spy on the public… because they can:

While the Lib Dems can spin as much as they like that this isn’t the draft communications data bill, this is clearly a light version of it which ignores the ruling of a court on fundamental rights and extends surveillance powers overseas. The party spent the day crowing about the concessions granted to civil liberties groups such as Don’t Spy on Us, but the concessions aren’t even in the bill. We have to trust this government to deliver these concessions. Is this a game we should be willing to play?

Yet the details are irrelevant. A secret deal between elites has removed the possibility of parliamentary scrutiny and engagement with civic society. The bill, warts and all, will be law next week. Theresa May has in the past stood strongly for the idea of policing by consent. What a shame she doesn’t think the same principles apply to our security services.

The party leaders will get their way next week, but the price will be further erosion of the authority of our political institutions. Today parliament feels a little further away from our citizens.

Larry Lessig has long pointed out that when governments act this way, the public trusts them less and less, and their actual mandate to govern is made much less powerful. Of course, when they can snoop on all of your communications, what do they care?

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “On How UK's Political Elite Shoved Through A Data Retention Bill”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
PaulT (profile) says:

In before one of the regular fools misses the point and starts gibbbering on about Google…

Anyway, this is sadly no surprise, and it’s sad to see the UK government copy the kinds of tactics usually seen in the US that lead to rubbish like the Patriot Act being passed without anyone being able to read or change it. I’d hope that the EU court manages to stop or override this somehow, but given that the current government would really wish to do without the EU altogether, it’s going to be a long time before we see any results,.

Whatever (profile) says:

public trust versus public protection

There are plenty of laws that the public do not like, and often do not understand that are for their benefit. While I am not sure that data retention is one of those things, clearly the UK government sees a compelling reason to maintain it, and the EUo court decision pretty much forced their hand.

Would public debate on the subject change opinions? I doubt it. The issue is always that a small percentage of people at each end of the debate will stridently argue the extremist views on a topic, and the rest of the public will be left to choose between two very poor points of view.

I don’t like the government doing this stuff, but it does and will happen. That is the nature of politics. If you don’t like it, vote the bums out of office and replace them.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: public trust versus public protection

“I doubt it”

Yes, we all know what a genius you are with your opinions. Have you found any citations for the other threads yet, or are you still sulking that people called you out as a liar?

“If you don’t like it, vote the bums out of office and replace them.”

The last election, a lot of British citizens did just that, and ended up with a coalition that hadn’t been voted in instead. So, your option failed last time, what should voters do this time?

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: public trust versus public protection

Because your rationale is poor and you reek of totalitarianism. That’s why you don’t want to discuss. Offer proper argumentation and evidence to your ideas and maybe people will accept them. He did it. The Brits voted the last Government the fuck out and got more of the same. What now?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 public trust versus public protection

The only idea that I can come up with is to vote for the best of the rest of the candidates, be that green, pirate or independent. That is preferable to not voting, which does nothing to change the politicians. A parliament made up of individuals might actually get something done about rolling back state powers.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 public trust versus public protection

“The Brits voted the last Government the fuck out”

That’s actually the problem. Too many people tried to just vote the last lot out rather than vote in the party they thought truly represented them. The result? There was no clear winner and a hung parliament. This resulted in the Tories being able to claw back power, even though many people who voted Lib Dem wanted them in power even less than they wanted to keep Labour. Unless you actually voted Tory, it’s unlikely you were represented in the current parliament at all (and probably not even then).

The problem is, we’re left with few choices in the next election to replace them. A lot of people now want rid of the Tories, but they remember the fiascos caused by the last Labour government and have been utterly betrayed by the Lib Dems. Most of the minority parties are single-issue parties, many of them subscribing to racist and ill-conceived policies even further right than the Tories. Who is their to vote for, other than just vote for Labour to try and get rid of the current assholes and thus still not be represented (though perhaps not have a government as openly hostile to the needs of the ordinary person).

It’s difficult to say what will happen at the polls next time, but it’s nowhere near as clear cut as some might claim. But hey, I’ve called the liar out again, so now he’ll sulk and hide in another thread.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: public trust versus public protection

I’m trying to get a dishonest troll to actually back up his own claims rather than dumping a load of half-truths on a thread – then running away when people question him on them, before spouting lies on the next thread.

I’m sorry that discussing and supporting your own comments is that hard for you, but I’ll keep asking you to do so until you either stop lying or start citing.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 public trust versus public protection

“Again, I am not going to get into it with you.”

No, because backing up your claims and answering questions would be too honest for someone like you.

“that’s your job”

My job is as a productive professional in the IT industry, with real opinions and concerns about a number of things debated on this blog.

What’s your job? From the evidence you present, some kind of of shill for a company whose livelihood depends on the protection afforded by these bad laws, I’d bet.

“You won’t bait me into anything.”

Least of all being an honest human being rather than a pathological liar who gets his kicks from deliberately derailing honest debate. Unless I’m correct about you being paid to do things like this, of course, which would merely make you an unscrupulous profiteer rather than an actual moron.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: public trust versus public protection

The 3rd Reich also saw many compelling reasons to maintain many bad laws. South Africa also find it compelling to maintain the Apartheid. Governments are made of fallible people.

If you don’t like it, vote the bums out of office and replace them.

Did you miss the part where all the parties agreed with it? What to do when nobody cares about the citizenry? Sit and cry? What would you suggest?

Claire Rand says:

Re: Re: public trust versus public protection

Well, they will no doubt have been considering this for a few months – probably in the knowledge that there would be some objections to it, both publically and from the back bench MPs who like to stir trouble as well as the few who would actually read it (sad but true).

Look at what else has come out recently about the “right honourable members” and you may see where some leverage has come from to pressure a few of the more vocal opponents into keeping quiet and allowing this through.

Labour (opposition) loved this sort of law, and wanted to go further so they won’t oppose it. The Conservatives did oppose it but according to rumour may currently have the most to hide thus be the easiest to lean on. The Liberal Democrats also have much to hide so will do as they are told.

Its being done now so there is ‘no time to discuss this important safeguard’, in effect when you want no discussion make it the last item on the agenda on a friday afternoon.

Its not an uncommon trick, ‘statuatory instruments’ are a very common way of getting potentially unpopular laws through when the front benches agree but the back benches may cause trouble.

Given whats coming out slowly but surely there is a huge incentive to have the ability to see who is talking to who, so as to be able to find the source leaking to journalists etc (which is the #1 thing this will be used for).

Its all about capturing the ‘metadata’, but will no doubt at all be used to target much more intensive collections.

GCHQ and the home office want it simply to legalise something they have been doing for ages, if they have illegally obtained info they don’t want to reveal the source of this data can be used as the ‘source’ publically.

Smoke, Mirror, Mirror, Smoke.. Say hello..

We’re as bad as your lot really, difference is the British public will do even less about it as the tabloids will scream about terrorpeadoes!!!!! to get headlines, most of us just shrug and carry on.

Interesting to note several journolists have just been jailed for ‘hacking’ mobile phones (nothing of the sort, just using default pin numbers to listen to voice mail and similar), and here we have a government who want to do similar to everyone all the time

Like so much of the ‘terror’ laws concerning the internet and communications it will do nothing against the stated target but will be very useful against people leaking stuff the governement doesn’t really want leaked and for collecting evidence to threaten people with.

Oh yes, and to allow councils to clamp down on people putting bins out on the wrong days.

Claire Rand says:

Re: Re: public trust versus public protection

Indeed, its not the politicians who keep drafting this law.

Look at the last five or six Home Sec’s, they all seem to have the same chip inserted into the back of the neck and become raving loons foaming at the mouth within a few weeks of getting the job.

You can vote out the figureheads (its not easy though, they tend to have very safe seats), but you can do nothing about the civil serpents in the background who push this idiocy

Dave says:

Re: public trust versus public protection

“Vote the bums out of office and replace them”. Don’t know why but political life just doesn’t seem to work that way. The same party’s MP’s seem to get reinstated time and time again where there is a toadying stronghold in a particular area. Conservatives seem to be the most sniveling of the bunch, like all the creeping Thatcherites in her era. Never could stand that woman or her bowing and scraping cronies. Maybe stronger independent candidates are needed

SimonB (profile) says:

RE: Whatever

But surely that is what part of being a democracy is about? I’m not sure we fully qualify now as a democracy in the UK or on the US but unless we kick up a fuss about this in the UK then more laws like this will be slipped through.

Surely it is our duty as concerned citizens to raise issues with our members of parliament when we see them overstepping their bounds. It can and has made a difference in the recent past. Just because they are trying it again doesn’t mean we should just through up our hands and admit defeat. How many pivotal moments in history happened because people refused to give up?

No, this is an important matter. As has been shown time and time again governments and their security apparatus are made up of fallible human beings. If they really must introduce these laws to allow mass surveillance then the entire matter should be publicly debated and serious measures to protect against invasion of privacy and abuse must be put in place and any transgressions must be publicly prosecuted. That is the only way we can have a system that doesn’t repress freedom of speech, association and movement.

What every concerned UK citizen should be doing is writing to their local MP to complain about this process. Make it clear that your continued or future support is reliant on them standing up and being counted as against this cynical and cowardly move on the part of the three parties.

If anyone in the UK is unaware, the website to use to write to your MP is: https://www.writetothem.com/

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:public trust versus public protection

The issue is always that a small percentage of people at each end of the debate will stridently
argue the extremist views on a topic, and the rest of the public will be left to choose between two very poor points of view.

I don’t want government mandated cameras in my bedroom or permanent GPS monitoring of all citizens.

mandatory data retention is essentially a powergrab with no logical stoppingpoint; the state demands a history of all peoples’ lives in order to correlate the historic data with crimes not yet committed.

This is no different from a law requiring that every bedroom must have a around the clock video camera streaming everything to the government in case that a child is abused.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Look on the bright side

“Now they won’t have to inconvenience you by seizing all your computers and electronics when they kick your door down, because they’ll already have it all.”

Sadly though, in order to keep you from realizing that they already have it all, they still have to take everything in your house and keep it for twenty three years, then lose in a flood or store room fire.

Its just agency policy.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...