Parliamentary Committee Has Significant Concerns With UK Surveillance Bill

UK Parliament logoThe UK government is pushing to have your internet and mobile records stored for a year as part of their controversial surveillance legislation that is currently being reviewed by a parliamentary committee.

The data that internet service providers and mobile phone providers would be required to store “will be details of services, websites and data sources you connect to when you go online and is called your ‘Internet Connection Record’” according to BBC News. This would be a huge impost on resources, particularly for smaller ISPs.

The committee report published today, makes 86 detailed recommendations and lists a number of concerns, describing the legislation as needing a lot of work even if they support its intention. The bill would bring together numerous pieces of legislation covering intrusive powers that already exist into one clear piece of legislation.

Areas the committee would like to see greater clarity are encryption, fuller justification of bulk powers if they are to be included in the bill, more conclusive proof that internet connection records should be included in the bill and that there should be a review five years after the bill is enacted.

The government says the legislation is needed to help in catching criminals as they use technology, often to commit crimes, and thwart arrest. But opponents believe that the police and crime agencies already have enough powers.

Speaking on the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme, former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg was critical of the Bill saying it took “a dragnet approach” and was “disproportionate”.

“What the Home Office is in essence proposing is that in order to be able to surveil and analyse something, they’re saying they want to collect everything on everyone, and that is a dragnet approach which I’ve always felt is disproportionate.”

BBC News reports Clegg viewed “the analogy of finding terrorist or criminal activity on the internet as being like a needle in a haystack as “comforting”, but that “the reality is a little different.”

“Implying that everyone may be guilty when millions of innocent people are just going about their everyday business free of any wrongdoing at all is… something which is not in keeping with long-standing British traditions,” Mr Clegg said.

“The question is about proportionality. Is it proportionate in a liberal democracy to retain information on everything from the music you download on Spotify, to the app that you open, to the supermarket website that you visit, in order to go after the bad guys? Very few countries, other than Russia that I’m aware of, take this dragnet approach.”

He said he favoured a “narrower approach” to data retention, and that other countries concentrate on collecting data on those people who “flicker on the radar screen of security services in the first place.”

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