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Snoopers’ Charter limps back into the Queen’s Speech

Might be only sleeping
Wed May 08 2013, 16:29

THE CONTROVERSIAL COMMUNICATIONS BILL has been sneaked back into the Queen's Speech despite opposition from the Deputy Prime Minister.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg woke up to the threat of the snoopers' charter last week and said that there was no way he and his party could support it.

"The 'snoopers charter' isn't going to happen - the idea that there would be a record kept of all your online activity," he said.

"It won't happen while Lib Dems are in Government. Of course we need to support police, they have significant powers already which I support them in using. This idea of a 'snoopers charter' - I think it isn't workable or proportionate. It isn't going to happen."

The Queen's Speech was delivered today and although it didn't name the Communications Bill, it made room for discussion about internet security and noises about data hauls, with the Prime Minister saying that it is important that law enforcement has a reach that extends to the web.

"In relation to the problem of matching internet protocol addresses, my Government will bring forward proposals to enable the protection of the public and the investigation of crime in cyberspace," said Prime Minister David Cameron.

A note released by Number 10 to support the speech added some context. It said that the Communications Bill is not about "indiscriminately accessing internet data of innocent members of the public" but "ensuring that police and other law enforcement agencies have the powers they need to investigate the activities of criminals that take place online as well as offline".

It added that the aim, which could involve legislation, is to get internet protocol (IP) addresses for individuals from service providers.

The news has had a muted response from opponents of the Communications Bill. Last week Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch and Sam Smith, technologist at Privacy International were asking the UK's main ISPs to make a stand and oppose the Communications Bill.

"We [need] to ask how and why these policies for extreme forms of mass surveillance keep coming back, with little challenge internally. They frequently look expensive and barely workable - key components such as decryption of data, man in the middle attacks and the use of 'black boxes' to reassemble communications data were dropped; while others were scaled back during discussions with the Joint Committee that examined the proposals last year," said a statement from the Open Rights Group today.

"Why was legislation proposed by the Home Office, if their understanding of the technologies they would have to deploy was so flaky? And what exactly did they spend £400 million on?"

Loz Kaye, leader of the UK Pirate Party added that the speech was full of flimflam and missed opportunities.

"Far from burying the Snoopers' Charter the speech promises measures to enable the investigation of crime in 'cyberspace', whatever that actually means. It's vital that the Coalition doesn't make the same mistakes and listens to civil society and the tech community from the start. We must not have the Snoopers' Charter rebooted. Otherwise we will end up with more impractical draconian legislation," he said.

"The details of what the Government intends to do about matching internet protocol addresses needs urgent clarification. Get this wrong and it could end privacy on the internet. It also has serious implications for activists and campaigners online. One thing Clegg and Cameron can count on, we will be watching carefully." µ


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