The government has secured the backing of all three main parties to rush through an emergency data bill named the Data Retention and Investigation Powers Bill (DRIP) before Parliament recedes for the summer to ensure police and security services can continue to access records on phone calls, text messages and Internet usage from ISPs.
The new bill follows the European Court of Justice ruling that the EU’s Data Retention Directive (DRD) was invalid because it failed to put adequate safeguards in place. Despite the government knowing this since April, it has only now been deemed an ‘emergency’ to take the steps it says it needs to.
Prime Minister, David Cameron said: “I am simply not prepared to be a prime minister who has to address the people after a terrorist incident and explain that I could have done more to prevent it.”
“This is about restoring two vital measures ensuring that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies maintain the right tools to keep us all safe”
Really? Does Mr Cameron truly think that by saying “terrorist” and “paedophiles” that the public are going to buy into the legislation when the ECJ deemed the EU’s DRD invalid?
At a time when the Snowden revelations have shown the enormous extent to which ordinary citizens’ private communications are caught up in government surveillance activities, it is outrageous that laws affecting each and every one of us are being passed seemingly without any of the normal parliamentary oversight or debate.
It seems we’re not alone with our views. Already DRIP is causing much debate and controversy, with Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group arguing there was “no legal basis for making internet service providers retain our data so it is using the threat of terrorism as an excuse for getting this law passed”.
I gave evidence to the Joint Committee of the House of Commons and House of Lords speaking against the thoroughly discredited Communications Data Bill. In their report that Select Committee said [para 284] ‘Before re-drafted legislation is introduced there should be a new round of consultation with technical experts, industry, law enforcement bodies, public authorities and civil liberties groups.’
The report also said that there should be ‘stronger safeguards’ and that service providers should be given a clear understanding of why the legislation is necessary.’ Even Charles Farr, director-general, Office of Security and Counter-Terrorism in the Home Office, conceded in his evidence that discussions with communications and Internet companies ‘need to continue and go into more detail as we get closer to the time when the Bill is enacted, should it be so.’
It seems that now, none of that consultation is going to take place. There has been zero consultation. Instead, we will have a law that has been rushed through that gives the government tremendous power – and which the European Court of Justice has rejected. Once again the UK state is flying in the face of public opinion, ignoring industry experts and trampling on citizens’ rights in an attempt to extend its powers over technologies those in power understand little of and have even less control over. This is a sad day for British democracy.
Have your say?
What do you think about the new DRIP Bill? Do you agree with us that is absurd for the Prime Minister to think he can scaremonger the public into believing this legislation is for our own good, or do you agree that it is needed in our technological day and age? Let us know your thoughts by leaving us a comment.
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