The Draft Communications Data Bill – A Snoopers’ Charter

8 Jun

The Coalition Pledge……

Despite the 2010 Coalition pledge to “end the storage of internet and email records without good reason” the Government has recently announced plans to store more of these private records.  The Government’s Draft Communications Data Bill proposes to increase the collection and storage of “communications data”; records of email, text and phone calls for the entire population.  Instead of reversing already problematic powers that allow for mass surveillance, the Coalition now proposes to go much further: creating a Snoopers’ Charter by any other name……

What is Being Proposed?…..

Currently UK based Communication Service Providers (CSPs), like Virgin Media and BT, retain certain information about their customers’ use of communications for their own business purposes (e.g. to send you an itemised phone bill).  Since 2009 it has been a requirement that this information is held by CSPs for a one year period.  This requirement is already problematic.  It represents a shift from targeted monitoring of future communications on the basis of individual suspicion to the indiscriminate stockpiling of private data to be used by public agencies for a future, unspecified purpose.  For these reasons courts in Germany, Romania and the Czech Republic have found similar arrangements in their respective countries to be unconstitutional.

The Government now wants to go much further.  It wants to require CSPs to start collecting, storing and processing additional information about their customers’ use of communications generated by third party CSPs based outside the UK in order to access services like Gmail.  For the first time private companies will be instructed to collect information on billions of communications made by their customers for no other reason than the authorities’ future demands for access.  This amounts to mass, blanket, surveillance of the population outsourced to the private sector.

Identical proposals were previously shelved by the Labour Government following a fierce backlash against a 2009 Home Office consultation……

Reasons to be Concerned……

Many Government departments, like HMRC and the MOD, have already demonstrated their ability to loose sensitive and personal information, by loosing unencrypted discs in the post, leaving Laptop computers on trains or MP’s carelessly throwing away constituents’ correspondence in park bins.  The announcement that patients’ medical records will be accessable online by 2020 is also troubling.  With the increasing use of ‘cloud’ storage, where information is held on a third party server, the opertunity for hackers to access personal information is a gift for organised criminals wanting to steal your identity.  I have previously raised my concerns about the Summary Care Register and the ambiguos language regarding who can access it and for what reason? (see: ‘A Message for 2012’ – 31 December 2011).  If you did not choose to opt-out the records held by your GP will have already been included……

The Human Rights Act 1998……

As a European Union member state the UK Government is bound by the Human Rights Act, although in practice breaches of the HRA frequently go unchallenged.  Under Article 8 “Everyone has the right to respect for his/her private and family life, home and correspondence”.  The proposals in the Draft Communications Data Bill appear to directly contradict Article 8.  However, the Government has also proposed the introduction a UK Human Rights Act but has failed to say whether it will build on the existing HRA or completely rewrite it so suit its’ own agenda.  The presumption of innocence upon which our legal system was built is gradually being eroded.  The Orwellian nightmare of ‘1984’ is becoming a reality……


The United States of America continues to use remotely controlled ‘drones’ to carry out the extra-judicial execution of ‘enemy combatants’ in sovereign countries, without the authorisation of their governments.  There is evidence which demonstrates the ‘collateral damage’ caused to innocent civilians by ‘drone’ attacks.  The international community remains impotent toward Syria, a country which also monitors the communications of its’ citizens, as did Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party in Iraq.


Additional Information…….

David Davis MP is a well known supporter of civil liberties and will be holding an online discussion with members of the ’38 Degrees’ members.  This will be a great opportunity to question a Conservative insider.  If you are interested follow the link below……

Join ’38 Degrees’


Extracts C/O Liberty with thanks…….


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