Communications Data Bill Public Consultation Closes
Now it’s up to the Joint Committee to carry on scrutinising the controversial draft Snooper’s Charter>
The public no longer has the opportunity to hand in their opinions on the controversial draft Communications Data Bill, otherwise known as the Snooper’s Charter, to the Joint Committee that is scrutinising the proposed legislation.
The bill, if it is written into the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act as planned, would allow police and intelligence bodies speedier access to communications data on suspects. The government has repeatedly stressed the Communications Data Bill is designed to catch terrorists and serious offenders, and that it would not allow authorities to view the content of any communicaitons, only who has contacted whom, from where and when.
Yet it has been met with stern opposition, with many claiming the proposals would allow for serious intrusions on people’s privacy, as communications providers would be told to keep hold of information for 12 months. The bill’s opponents also argue that the safeguards proposed do not go far enough. In particular, they are concerned only senior officers are needed to sign off applications for access to comms data, but no warrant is required, or approval from courts.
Rights groups such as Avaaz and 38 Degrees have been pushing hard on getting signatures for their respective petitions against the bill. Others like the Open Rights Group have been asking people to send in evidence to prove the law would be unnecessary.
Input from the public is now closed, but the Joint Committee is to continue hearing evidence, which will begin again in September.
Julian Huppert, Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge, who sits on the 12-person committee, told TechWeekEurope that whilst petitions were positive, written evidence would have more of an impact.
“I think analysis of the bill and the problems with it are actually more effective than large numbers of objections,” Huppert said, adding that the inquiry, which kicked off in early July, has already had an impact despite a lack of information offered by the Home Office. “I think people who are on the committee understand much more about what the consequences are and what all the dangers are.
“We are waiting for the Home Office to provide a lot of the information promised to us in order to justify what they are doing.
“The process has highlighted how many problems there are and how poorly specified it is in the bill what it is actually planning to do. Clause one, which gives the secretary of state powers to require data to be collected, is an incredibly broad power. I’ve been pressing publicly and privately for a draft of that order for us to have a look through, so far we haven’t had that.”
Some remain unhappy about the government’s approach to scrutinising the bill. “The Home Office should be running a full public consultation. We still don’t really know what is proposed, or what evidence the government believes it has,” said Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group.
“These are dangerous proposals that will come to haunt the coalition should they be pushed through.”
The committee will publish its report at the end of November. The government will then respond before deciding what to do with the bill.
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