Thursday 14 June 2012

Draft Communications Data Bill introduced

The Draft Communications Data Bill - already branded as a "snooper's charter" and likely to cost at least £1.8 billion over 10 years - has been put before Parliament.  A joint committee is to scrutinise the draft bill.  In addition, the Intelligence and Security Committee will report on the draft bill.

See the draft bill together with explanatory notes.   At a time of supposed financial stringency, the question of this massive cost suddenly does not seem to matter to government.  Furthermore, in a democratic society, the necessity for this degree of State intrusion into the communications of every person in the land will be seriously questioned in the weeks and months to come.

Citing the recent sexual grooming case in Rochdale, the Home Secretary Theresa May
told The Sun newspaper: - "I just don’t understand why some criticise these proposals. They must either not get what this data is and how it’s used or just can’t grasp its importance. By trying to stop the police having access to this tool, they are risking both justice and public safety.  Conspiracy theorists will come up with ridiculous claims about how these measures infringe freedom."

May's comments were backed by the Metropolitan police commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, who wrote in The Times that the powers could be "a matter of life and death".  Hogan-Howe has been criticised for his intervention - Daily Mail 15th June.  The press release from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) is, unsurprisingly, supportive of the need for further powers.

The proposals now merit serious consideration but they are being introduced into a country in which the population is already among the most spied on in the world.  CCTV proliferates and the authorities already have extensive powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and under the Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2009.  Perhaps having a few "conspiracy theorists" around is not necessarily a bad thing.

Telegraph 14th June - Snooping laws will stop paedophile rings, says Theresa May.

Eversheds - Update 14th June - worth reading for greater detail

Earlier 2008 Bill

Other commentaries etc:

Paul Bernal blog - A Police State?


  1. *COUGH VPN to another country... its not even gonna work... all you need is a VPN connection to somewhere outside the UK and they cant detect anything other than one connection to that VPN endpoint. Guess thats what the terrorists are gonna do ??? pointless waste of time and money.

  2. The opening and closing remarks in R A’s Application [2010] NIQB 99 are a good summation.




    “Under our tents I’ll play the eavesdropper To hear if any mean to shrink from me”

    Shakespeare: Richard III v. 3

    It is unsurprising that amongst the malign characteristics Shakespeare attributes to Richard III in his entirely negative portrayal were those of an eavesdropper. In Shakespeare’s time and to this day eavesdropping was and is regarded as an essentially objectionable invasion of the privacy which citizens are entitled to expect and a trespass upon the personal space of individuals who are entitled to be free from prying ears and eyes. The dangers to the integrity of society and of citizens’ lives from eavesdropping or in its more modern guise state surveillance were amply demonstrated in the Fascist and totalitarian regimes of Europe whose egregious abuses of human rights formed the backdrop to the European Convention on Human Rights which was designed to prevent the re-emergence of such abuses. The horrors of the snooping society in Nazi Germany portrayed in Brecht in Fear and Misery in the Third Reich were with the advances in surveillance equipment replicated in an even more sophisticated manner in East Germany, a society in which a culture of all pervasive surveillance destroyed human relationships and degraded the lives of its citizens. The graphic portrayal of that system in the film The Lives of Others is a compelling argument, if one be needed, against unrestrained state surveillance.

    [2] Although objectionable in principle it must be recognised that on occasion a substantial benefit to society may be achieved by properly regulated surveillance. It may, for example, prevent loss of life or assist in the detection of crime or conduct genuinely damaging to the public good. The price of invading the privacy of individuals may, on occasions, be a price worth paying. Convention case law recognises this but clearly shows that adequate safeguards must be in place and that surveillance must be subject to a clear and foreseeable legal regime.


    27] For the reasons given the application must be dismissed.

    [28] No legal regime unless it is entirely inflexible and restrictive can avoid entirely the possibility of abuse of power by agents of the state. If the protections afforded by RIPA and the relevant codes made thereunder are to be properly safeguarded they require conscientious lawful application by state agents and by Surveillance Commissioners who are duty bound to ensure that the legislation is applied consistently with the human rights of individuals affected. On occasion errors will occur. In Re McE it emerged that there was no basis for the Prison Service to authorise surveillance but initially it asserted that it had such a right and presumably it had on occasion purported to exercise such a non-existent power (see Lord Carswell at paragraph [95]). Lord Neuberger indicated that the evidence suggested that Government had been knowingly sanctioning illegal surveillance of legal consultations at a time when the protections attaching to intrusive surveillance were not in place. It does not appear that these abuses of power were picked up or criticised. Those examples emphasise the importance of close and anxious scrutiny of the exercise of surveillance powers on the part of all those charged with the application or supervision of the surveillance legal regimes.

  3. May "You can't disagree with me, because of paedophiles and terrorists. Don't you understand, I'm pulling the card, so you can't disagree?"

  4. If the UK agrees to this EU Directive 2006/24/EC and COM/2012/09 then when all 27 States have done the same, the EU can do exactly what it likes and READ or listen to Conversation, and have video watch everyone movement if they want to-and no one can prevent them. I thought perhaps we voted for our own Government to govern us according to our Long standing Constitution. If they can't do that, why are you voting and paying them? We certainly can't pay foreigners to govern us though can we.