Cross-party Committee criticises Government's Snoopers' Charter plans

11 December 2012

Draft Bill pays insufficient attention to privacy and ‘goes much further than it need or should’

Today the Joint Committee on the Draft Communications Data Bill released its report which criticises the controversial Snoopers’ Charter proposals. The Joint Committee of MPs and Peers concluded that the draft Bill is too widely drafted and significant changes and safeguards are required to prevent abuse.

The Committee was clear that ‘the draft Bill pays insufficient attention to… the right to privacy and goes much further than it need or should’. The Government has not properly assessed the cost of the scheme and the Committee crucially concluded that the proposals were much closer to previous plans for a central database than the Home Office would have us believe.

The Committee also recommended that:

  • The Home Office has not made the case for the wide and sweeping powers that would be granted by the Bill: it should only be given powers if it can make the case for them now;
  • There should be a completely new process of consultation before legislation is re-introduced;
  • The definition of communications data is dangerously out of date. In particular the current definition of subscriber data could catch a great deal of intrusive social media information.

Isabella Sankey, Director of Policy for Liberty, said:

“The Government has been sent back to the drawing board by this cross-party committee of both Houses. It is clear that a proper public consultation would leave this Snoopers’ Charter not just in the long grass, but dead and buried for good.”

The current plans for a Snoopers' Charter echo proposals from 2008, when the Government proposed a Communications Data Bill as part of the Interception Modernisation Programme.  Following a public outcry, plans for a centralised database were hastily dropped in favour of a series of industry controlled mini-databases.

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