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Following the election of our new Conservative Government last week and Mr Cameron’s re-appointment of Theresa May as Secretary of State, rumours are now rife that one of the first items on her agenda is to reignite the highly controversial ‘Snooper’s Charter’. Will it be third time lucky for Theresa May?

Shortly after the Conservative’s election win was confirmed, May reportedly commented that implementing the Communications Data Bill or ‘Snooper’s Charter’ as it has been nicknamed, is a key priority for her and her party.

Her last attempt to introduce this Bill was blocked by the Liberal Democrat part of the coalition Government who had concerns over its impact on privacy and freedom of expression. Interestingly, in their own pre-election manifesto they had planned to introduce a significantly different new ‘Digital Bill of Rights’.

May said: “David Cameron has already said, and I’ve said, that a Conservative government would be giving the security agencies and law enforcement agencies the powers that they need to ensure they’re keeping up to date as people communicate with communications data.

We were prevented from bringing in that legislation into the last government because of the coalition with the Liberal Democrats and we are determined to bring that through, because we believe that is necessary to maintain the capabilities for our law enforcement agencies such that they can continue to do the excellent job, day in and day out, of keeping us safe and secure.”

Whilst she may no longer need to fear opposition from the Liberal Democrats, she will reportedly need to deal with further opposition from the SNP, who are reputedly wanting to block the Charter “…by courting “libertarian” Tories who have previously opposed Theresa May’s terrorist surveillance plans.”

What remains to be seen is whether Theresa May plans to retry the Communications Data Bill in its previous form which was widely criticised or if she plans to amend it in any way. Following the terrorist attacks in France earlier this year, there was talk about restricting or monitoring the use of encryption in communications but little detail was given at the time as to how that would even be feasible. Encryption is widely used across online communications to protect customers from fraud and ensure confidential payment information is protected. To restrict or monitor its use triggers a series of alarms for us and the industry as a whole.

We understand the security agencies and the police need access to communications and online activity to prevent security breaches and prosecute alleged offenders. However, the balance between protecting the privacy of citizens and ensuring our national security is a very fine one. It’s also clear that new legislation of some sort will be required as the sunset clause in the existing DRIPA comes into force in December 2016.

We just hope the initial concerns raised by industry will be addressed in any future legislation and ideally that any new draft would be based on industry consultation where we can discuss concerns and suggest best practice approaches to satisfy all objectives. Our concern is that this highly topical legislation will be shuffled in without proper scrutiny despite its previous objections; something we’ve seen before.

Other post-election plans

It’s not just the potential reintroduction of the ‘Snooper’s Charter’ that will affect our channel though. A Conservative government win promised continuation of the ongoing BDUK plans to deploy superfast broadband to 90% of the UK by 2016 and 95% by 2017, with further plans for near universal coverage of ‘ultrafast’ broadband by 2018. They also announced a review of a potential 5Mbps USO in the 2015 Budget which may form part of Ofcom’s recently announced strategic review. Definitely one to watch!

Have your say!

Do you think the Government will successfully implement the Snooper’s Charter this time? Do you think amendments will be made to address its previous criticism? Do you think surveillance powers should be increased? Let us know your thoughts by leaving us a comment below.

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