Why I Oppose The Snooper’s Charter

in Security

snooper's charterI make so secret of my opposition to the UK Government’s planned investigatory powers bill – or snooper’s charter as it is better known.  The core of the bill is that the UK Government wants the power to demand Internet services hands over their customers’ records and to weaken encryption in its fight against terrorism. Home Secretary Theresa May is, however, under attack from MPs and even the Information Commissioner’s Office, the job of which is to protect data.  She has been called to appear before the parliamentary scrutiny committee who want answers to a number of questions.

Judicial Review Of Snooper’s Charter

These include:

  • Whether the value of the communications data to be stored for 12 months and accessed by the police and security services outweighs the privacy risks involved
  • Why the bill’s current definition of telecommunications providers potentially includes coffee shop and hotel WiFi providers
  • How she justifies bulk data collection as legal given recent judgments in the EU court of justice and the European court of human rights
  • Why the draft bill specifies a “judicial review” test should be used, if the judicial commissioners operating the “double lock” authorisation process will be applying the same tests as the home secretary
  • Why the draft bill weakens the protection given to journalistic sources under existing and crime and terrorism legislation.

information commissioner Christopher Graham was asked by the parliamentary committee whether the bill gets the balance right, between privacy and security. “It’s very difficult to judge whether the bill gets the balance right,” he said. “Because the one thing we don’t have in the voluminous material that has been put before you is any real evidence, as opposed to the occasional anecdote, for the utility of the information that’s sought.

Serious Crime And Terrorism

“The bill proposes that data can be required to be retained for 12 months but there’s no particular explanation of why 12 months — rather than six months or 18 months — is desirable because there is no indication of the use that such information has been put to over many months and years in the normal way of dealing with serious crime and terrorism.”

While the proposed bill obviously targets the major players such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and Apple, etc. there is some confusion about the spread of organisations that will be required to comply with the legislation.  Will, for example, the high street cafe that provides free WiFi for its customers be compelled to dig out and hand over data from which ever company provides the Internet connection?

Stronger Not Weaker Encryption

Furthermore, with last year’s highly public hacks of TalkTalk, Ashley Madison, Edinburgh council, Carphone Warehouse and even, this is te end of civilisation as we know it, Betty’s Tea Rooms in Yorkshire,  we should be strengthening encryption, not weakening it.

Also, once the UK Government grabs the data, what assurances do we have that the data is safe or will it be stolen from a laptop computer left in the back of a cab or a pole dancing emporium by some slacker of a civil servant?  Government has a sorry history here.  The individual who blithely declares “I don’t care, I have nothing to hide” will change their mind if the Government carries out a wild card sweep of , say, Facebook data and that data goes missing while in the “care” of the Government and goes for sale on the dark net!

Snooper’s Hypocrisy

The UK Guardian newspaper reports that May’s appearance follows the rejection of a Freedom of Information Act request to see the date, time and recipient of every email the home secretary sent, every Skype call she made and every website she visited during October and November last year on the grounds that it was “vexatious”.

The Guardian continues that Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, said the rejection showed that the while the government wanted to push through powers in the bill to give the police and security services’ access to everyone’s weblogs, they were not prepared to release the home secretary’s records.

Lazy Legislation, Intelligence And Enforcement

“Theresa May wants access to our entire web browsing histories, what she calls ‘internet connection records’, but when the public asks to see hers the Home Office decides that the request is vexatious. I would argue that her policy is not only vexatious but Orwellian,” said Farron.

I think that the snooper’s charter is lazy legislation, lazy intelligence collection and lazy enforcement and I dread to think what happens with the vast amount of data that will be flooding over the intelligence service’s desks!  But maybe this is hardly surprising given the Government’s attempts to dramatically cut funding of the country’s police forces. It is thought that much of the work carried out by police forces will be taken over by contractors such as G4S which is run by none other than Home Secretary Theresa May’s husband. Or maybe I am being overly cynical!

Summing up, I don’t have anything to hide, unless Theresa May sees me as undermining her idea of democracy.  I do believe I have a fundamental right to keep my data away from a political state that is starting to show very undemocratic tendencies which is why I use VPN and Boxcryptor. You should also check out Ghostmail and Whisply.

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