Concerns over the proposed Communication Bill in UK

By EDRi · May 23, 2012

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Deutsch: [Geplantes britisches Telekommunikationsgesetz wirft Fragen auf |]

Some of the bills presented on 9 May 2012 in the Queen’s Speech, in
which the Queen reads the government’s legislative agenda for the next
parliamentary period in front of both Houses of Parliament, raise
freedom of expression concerns.

HM the Queen confirmed the intention of the government to introduce the
Communications Capabilities Development Programme, a government bill
aimed at extending the surveillance of the electronic and telephone
communications in UK.

“My government intends to bring forward measures to maintain the ability
of the law enforcement and intelligence agencies to access vital
communications data under strict safeguards to protect the public,
subject to scrutiny of draft clauses’” said HM the Queen in her speech.

However, the text of the bill does not give clear indications regarding
these safeguards.

In a letter addressed to the House of Commons, Reporters Without Borders
expressed their opinion that the bill was “disproportionate, dangerous
and counter-productive”, believing that it “could undermine individual
freedoms and potentially lead to widespread abuse.”
The bill gives intelligence services the right to access – in real time
and without prior authorisation – details of telephone calls, text
messages, emails, private messages on social networks and websites
visited, which means a breach of the individuals’ right to privacy.
Furthermore, the bill would involve serious legal, technical and
financial issues and would contravene international conventions ratified
by the United Kingdom.

Reporter Without Borders asked in their letter for a series of
clarifications related to the bill, including the criteria and
circumstances under which personal data can be examined, who would be
allowed to access the personal data and for how long, the safeguards for
citizens’ protection from abuses and the penalties imposed on the
Internet and telephone service providers for not handing over these

The communication bill was also criticised by EDRi-member ARTICLE 19
which considers it highly problematic also as it orders ISPs and mobile
phone operators to save and store, for one year, details of all
communications made by all persons in the UK.

Article 19 believes communication surveillance should be carried out
only with a court order and only when strictly necessary. Therefore
storing information on all UK citizens, without any suspicion,
“constitutes an invasion of privacy which is neither proportionate nor

The proposal makes identifying journalistic confidential sources
possible, thus discouraging people from providing information or
visiting controversial sites, which will affect the right to free
expression. The proposed safeguards are also clearly not enough
especially having in view the poor data security of the police and
private companies.

Both Reporters Without Borders and Article 19 call on the government and
parliament to reject the bill.

Open letter to Members of Parliament on Internet surveillance (11.05.2012),42605.html

Article 19 Statement – UK: Government promises defamation reform but
backslides on expression and surveillance (11.05.2012)

Queen unveils draft internet super-snoop bill – with clauses – Her Maj
opens Parliamentary session with clear nod to CCDP (9.05.2012)

EDRi-gram: UK: Home Office plans new surveillance measures (11.04.2012)