Only a few hours remain to give your opinion on proposed UK "Snooper's Charter"

Filed Under: Featured, Law & order, Privacy

Magnifying glass. Image from ShutterstockTime is rapidly running out for people to submit their comments to the UK government, about draft legislation which could allow police and intelligence services to spy on who you have been emailing.

After Thursday, it will be too late for members of the public to submit evidence to a British parliamentary committee running an inquiry into the draft Communications Data Bill.

The controversial proposed legislation, which has drawn strong criticism from some quarters who have dubbed it a "Snooper's charter", is being examined by a committee of MPs and British Lords before it starts the process of becoming actual law.

If the Communications Data Bill becomes law, ISPs and telecoms companies in the UK would have to store information about all communications for up to 12 months, including the time, duration, location, originator and recipient of messages sent via email, VOIP and telephone services.

Although the content of actual messages (what you said, or wrote) would not be accessible to the authorities without a warrant, a judge's permission would not be required for authorities to see details of the time and place that a message was sent, or which website was visited.

All that would be required is for officers to be investigating a crime, or working in the interest of protecting national security.

Understandably, critics of the draft bill have raised concerns that the system could be abused - and that law enforcement agencies might use it to conduct "fishing expeditions" rather than targeted surveillance against specific individuals.

There are also worries that the wealth of data could be used to build profiles about individuals' browsing habits - something which many would consider should remain private.

Additionally, there will be genuine fear that the sensitive databases could itself attract cybercriminals, who might attempt to steal them with the intention of abusing private information or blackmailing individuals.

UK GovernmentFor their part, the government argues that something needs to be done to fight crime and the threat of terrorism, and that surveillance is necessary to combat criminals who have adopted new technology. But will a determined criminal really not discover how to effectively hide their communications from the eyes of the British authorities?

If you want to give your feedback on the draft Communications Data Bill you need to move fast - as only a few hours remain. The deadline for providing feedback is Thursday, 23 August 2012.

Firstly, read the proposed bill. You can download the draft Communications Data Bill (in PDF format) here.

And you can email your comments to the committee (they appear to prefer Word documents) at draftcommunicationsdatabill@parliament.uk.

More details about the guidelines of how to submit comments and evidence can be found on the joint select committee's website.

Magnifying glass image from Shutterstock.

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10 Responses to Only a few hours remain to give your opinion on proposed UK "Snooper's Charter"

  1. misifi · 758 days ago

    The PDF download link is broken

  2. JohnMWhite · 758 days ago

    Is there any point? Britain has demonstrated time and time again it will do whatever it feels like without any concern for public opinion or civil liberties. Consultation exercises feel like a farce, they only serve to rub one's nose in how little the authorities care.

    I doubt that the members of the public will get through to them, but hopefully somebody internal will be able to make plain to the government just how arduous this process will be, not to mention dangerous. That kind of information will attract a host of flies. I doubt keeping the data secure will be at all a concern for the government, though, given their penchant for leaving unencrypted CDs in the backs of taxis, and since they seem to be obsessed with expanding their snooping powers and training the next generation to be expectant and accepting of a state that is always watching.

    • Richard · 758 days ago

      Worse than that, I suspect that anyone who contacts them to object to this proposal will be among the first to be targeted. Because, as we all know, "only those with something to hide value privacy".

      That's why you'll always find MPs out having sex in public places - they just want to prove they've got nothing to hide.

  3. wolsonjr · 758 days ago

    Is the next step for the Royal Mail to open and copy/store all hard copy communications. I see no difference between the two actions.

  4. Lindburgh · 757 days ago

    I am against any more legislation there is more than enough already

  5. snert · 757 days ago

    Why not go ahead and make it possible for everybody to read everybody's email, no matter who, what or where. That way we can quit worrying about it. And spam be dammed.

  6. Oscar · 757 days ago

    What happens if a person from UK contact by email to a person from another country (let's say France, or US, for example?). It might be that this policy is in contradiction with the policy of the country where the other person is, what happens then?

  7. Faz · 757 days ago

    How about a link to some useful examples of points that should be mentioned in any response to hm gov ? Anyone.. ?

  8. Stephen Brown · 757 days ago

    I for one will encrypt everything if this gets in, and I hope everyone does. If they ban encryption there would be no profit in the internet as bank transactions would be impossible.

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Send Graham an email, subscribe to his updates on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and App.net, and circle him on Google Plus for regular updates.