Wednesday 27 May 2015

Snoopers’ Charter Law Eroding our Digital Privacy is Sneaking In

The UK parliament re-opened for business today with a new UK government, which means a new raft of laws. While the media and the public were pre-occupied with rights eroding laws on unions to take strike action, and the possible replacement of the Human Rights Act, there was another proposed law in the list which seriously erodes another fundamental human right, our right to privacy. In the last coalition government the Liberal Democrats blocked this law on privacy grounds, but with the LibDems blown away in last month's general election, there is nothing to stop a Conservative majority government placing the Snoopers' Charter law.

Anti Austerity and Pro Union Protesters in London after the opening of Parliament

The Snooper's Charter is actually the nickname for the Communications Data Bill. The intended bill will grant ‘official’ permission for UK government agencies to read our email, listen to our phone calls and access our web browsing history. The law requires all UK ISPs and mobile phone operators to store our internet browsing activity, social media usage, emails, voice calls, internet gaming, and mobile phone messaging information for 12 months. Lets not kid ourselves that the UK security services don’t presently have such capabilities for themselves, just read the Edward Snowden leaked documents on GHCQ's snooping activities. 

Everyone has a legal right to (digital) privacy; any law that impedes on this fundamental human right has to be fully scrutinised and expertly debated. You only have to listen to the rubbish that comes out of our politicians mouths when it comes to digital privacy and security to be very concerned, the Prime Minister said he wanted to ban online encryption, which is utter nonsense. The Snoopers' Charter is being pushed by the UK security services, taking in politicians because they don’t understand the subject matter and they believe such laws are necessary to prevent terrorism. If there is one thing we all should have learnt from the Snowden circus, is our security services need to be held in check when comes to them freely trampling over digital privacy. I don't believe there will be enough counter argument to the Snoopers’ law, especially with the LibDems voice of privacy reason gone. I fear the political debate will gloss over the privacy infringement aspects of the law, focusing only on the terrorism prevention reason. There is a very delicate balance between security and privacy, it is for society to determine how it should be balanced, never the security services.

From a data protection perspective, hanging onto personal data longer than is required is a major ‘no no’. The changes in law will force many companies to store our most private information when previously they didn't have to. I think we can expect to see this new personal data storage leading to some serious data breaches in the future, especially by the smaller businesses involved, which quite frankly lack the security expertise, funding and so ability to secure sensitive data to high standard. We certainly can expect this data to be targeted by online fraudsters, as it will be of high exploitable value to them, and the data will even be targeted for the purpose of fame and notoriety by anti-government hacking groups, how ironic.

Finally any talk of passing laws which weaken encryption strength to permit UK security services to snoop is both nonsense and none enforceable, as by definition if you weaken security to let the UK government in, you weaken security for everyone.