UK is Outraged at the New Rushed Snooping Proposal

Christopher Sewerd Policy

The recent terrorist atrocity that was the Charlie Hebdo incident in France which left 12 dead and 11 injured caused widespread condemnation from around the world. The UK Government has seized the opportunity to rush through greater internet snooping laws.

Controversy for UK ISPs

With terrorist incidents making headlines around the world in the past decade and a half it is little wonder that governments worldwide wish to tighten up security in an aid to stop terrorist activities from happening on home shores. Controversy has been seen in the United Kingdom this week with an apparent knee jerk reaction to the Hebdo massacre in which the UK government are attempting to pass through laws that give themselves greater powers over online communications.

In the UK’s 2012-2013 legislative season the proposed draft Communications Data Bill caused a stir as it would of required ISPs and mobile phone companies to store more data on users access for a period of 12 months. This data included browsing activity including social media use, email, voice calls, internet gaming and mobile phone messaging records. The bill was widely opposed by the UK public with 71% of British people in a survey stating that they “did not trust that the data will be kept secure”. With support withdrawn by Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, the bill was shelved for the foreseeable future.

In the shadow of the Charlie Hebdo incident it is now clear that the UK government are using the atrocity to piggyback legislation that was originally in the draft Communications Data Bill on to a separate law that was almost complete known as the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill. 18 pages of additional material have been added to the bill that mirrors the original Communications Data Bill which was rejected.

ISP Criticism of UK proposed law

The UK ISP Association (ISPA) has criticised the move stating that complex legislation has been attempted to be inserted in to an existing bill at the last moment. It would appear the move has been handled in an underhanded way, inserting previously rejected proposals in to a nearly passed bill with a small time frame in order to pass requirements that some within Government want, but many others reject.

The House of Lords is an unelected group of peers who usually review law but have relatively little power in rejecting laws proposed by the more powerful and elected House of Commons. Lords within the house, previously in position for hereditary reasons are now appointed by government themselves, although still unelected by the general public. Lords King, Blair, West and Carlile who proposed the amendments include two former defense secretaries and a police commissioner, who could be considered bias in situations such as these.

While it is completely understandable that government agencies require the power to protect the public both in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, the fact that the majority of the UK public are against the bill, coupled with the fact it has been quietly attached to a current bill on that it was not intended for and being overseen by an unelected House of Lords is a major concern for the UK.

Snoopers Law call to action

The amendment was raised on Thursday 22nd January 2015 with the debate set to take place on Monday 26th January 2015. This gives the lords very little time to understand the impact of the additional 18 page amendment which is a clear attempt to pass through law without proper oversight and consideration.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation are calling on the British public to contact lords via Twitter before the Monday deadline to inform them of their objection to such a proposal and increase awareness of piggybacked amendment. A dedicated page at the EFF site has been created so that British users and those around the world against such surveillance laws can tweet directly to Lords involved in discussing the bill on Monday.