More than a year ago, we learned that the Home Office was resurrecting it’s plan to monitor every British citizens’ internet use.
Big Brother Watch led the charge against these plans, giving evidence to Parliament, urging our supporters to write to their MPs and being the central force in the media campaign against the so called Snoopers Charter. We highlighted how the Home Office had misrepresented the work of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre to support the bill, demonstrated alternatives were available – and that was before the technology companies tore into the proposals.
When the Joint Committee on the Draft Communications Data Bill published our report, we hosted a press conference that included David Davis MP, Jimmy Wales, Sir Chris Fox and Lord MacDonald.
Last week, we published 15 reasons why the Bill was the wrong approach.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has just announced that the Communications Data Bill is dead. He said on LBC : “What people dub the snoopers’ charter, that’s not going to happen – certainly with Lib Dems in government.”
(Governments by convention never comment directly on the content of the Queen’s speech so it is impossible for it to be explicitly ruled out, however “not going to happen” is a fairly clear signal.)
Nick Clegg has made the right decision for our economy, for internet security and for our freedom.
Last year Skype gave British police more data than any other government, including the USA. To say that the police can’t get data from the internet without this bill is simply wrong. Where security or child safety is at risk, companies already comply with police requests and there was a real risk this bill would make the situation worse by driving dangerous people underground into encrypted services.
Recording the websites we look at and who we email would not have made us safer, as some of the country’s leading cyber security academics argued this week. It would have made Britain a less attractive place to start a company and put British companies in the position of being paid by the Government to spy on their customers, something that oppressive regimes around the world would have quickly copied.
Rather than spending billions on another Whitehall IT disaster that tramples over our civil liberties and privacy on an unprecedented scale, we should focus on ensuring the police have the skills and training to make use of the huge volume of data that is available. If small, technical changes to existing legislation are required, then they should be properly thought through before being subject to the widespread consultation and comprehensive assessment this plan sorely lacked.
There has been widespread criticism in Parliament from MPs of all parties.
Rt Hon David Davis MP has said: “It was a long time coming, but the Deputy Prime Minister has done the right thing by blocking the Snoopers’ Charter. This draconian law would have been a massive, unnecessary extension of the state’s power. It would have trampled all over the privacy of innocent people without improving our security one jot.
“This of course begs the question as to why the Home Office spent over £400 million of taxpayers’ money on the Snoopers’ Charter when it clearly never had enough support within government to go ahead, and when there are many better uses of the money that would actually enhance the public’s security.”
Dr Julian Huppert MP, Lib Dem spokesperson for Home Affairs and a member of the Joint Committee on the draft Communications data Bill, said: “I am delighted that Nick Clegghas stood up for the British public on this. He was right to demand that these proposals be published as a draft, which gave us all a chance to see just how badly thought through the Home Office proposals were. And he is now right to say that what the Home Office propose is unacceptable. Spending billions of pounds to keep track of every website we go to, and what we do on facebook or google, is simply wrong. If we want to actually cut crime, spend the extra money on the police.”
Dominic Raab MP said: “This Orwellian scheme should be buried for good. For the billions it would cost, there are far better ways to strengthen law enforcement without snooping on every law-abiding citizen.”
Nick de Bois MP said: “It’s good news that this Bill is dead. The proposals would not have worked, would not have made us safer and yet would have carried massive costs. The Bill’s scattergun approach to monitoring personal data would have made us all suspects.”.
The Bill proposed to record every website visited, email sent and social media communication by every British citizen, and has been heavily criticised by business groups, security academics, civil liberties campaigners around the world. On Monday this week it was revealed leading computer science academics had written to the Prime Minister urging him to drop the bill.
Last year a Big Brother Watch/YouGov poll found almost three-quarters (71%) of Britons say they do not trust that the data about internet use will be kept secure and four in ten (41%) people said they would be less likely to use online services and websites if they knew their activity was being recorded.
We couldn’t have won this victory without your support – more than ever before, Big Brother Watch is a leading voice defending civil liberties and protecting privacy and we hope you can continue to support us.