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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

UK Privacy Outfits Opposed Communications Bill

UK government’s justification of the Communications Bill seems to have angered privacy groups. They claim that the plans will tarnish everyone with the same “guilty” brush.

Theresa May is expected today to push ahead with a draft of the legislation, which suggests to allow police access to people’s social networking and online activity, including emails, gaming and P2P phone calls. When outlining plans to store this data for a year, the Home Secretary claimed that it was necessary to help keep up and target criminals like terrorists and sex offenders.

Nevertheless, privacy groups explained that the legislation in question could violate human rights and tarnish everyone in the United Kingdom with the same “guilty” brush. The Open Rights Group believes that more consideration is necessary to make sure that the law is in line with human rights. As a result, the law could be challenged in a human rights court and pushed back in order to protect the public.

The matter is that the authorities will be able to reveal the identities of whistleblowers, celebrities and journalists. Since it will all be through police will, the industry could be moving into very dangerous territory.

Meanwhile, the privacy campaign outfit Big Brother Watch shared the same concerns, saying that in our free society innocent people shouldn’t justify why the authorities can’t spy on them. In fact, the proposed legislation goes against the Coalition Agreement and Conservative pre-election policy. Moreover, it is called basically illiberal, intrusive and unable to improve national security.

Privacy International points out that in the United Kingdom, the industries have historically operated under the presumption that the authorities had no business peering into the lives of people unless there was good reason to do so. Now, the Communications Bill would reverse that presumption and change the relationship between people and authorities.

Thus far, police and security services are able to access details of online visits and other communications information only if it’s stored by phone or web companies. But the suggested legislation will provide automatic access to the police and many other agencies, including NHS trusts and the Environment Agency. All of them will be able to make a case before Parliament if they want to access this data.

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