The UK government is edging ever closer to passing its draconian communications data bill, but new research from YouGov shows that the British public do not trust the coalition when it comes to keeping its private online data safe.
According to research published by YouGov and Big Brother Watch, 71% of people say they do not trust that their online data will be kept secure and just 6% think the government has made a “clear and compelling argument” for the bill.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, under the proposed Communications Capabilities Development Programme (CCDP) the government agency responsible for monitoring communications (the GCHQ) will be able to demand that ISPs hand over details on what websites you’re visiting and who you’re sending emails to, without any court orders or warrants. Under this law, all that stands between you and your online privacy is the idle suspicions of a civil service bureaucrat, who doesn’t have to go through a single independent check in order to look at your web-browsing history (although some say this has always been the case in the UK anyway).
The bill will also allow law enforcement to monitor details of messages sent on social media and gaming platforms, such as Xbox Live and World of Warcraft. While the bill won’t let agencies read the content of emails, it does let them monitor who they’ve been sent to and when.
The Home Office has gone through virtually every threat it can think of to try and convince the public that the CCDP is necessary. It started off back in April by saying the CCDP would help prevent peadophiles from carrying out crimes. In fact Home Secretary Theresa May, went as far as to cite the case of convicted child killer Ian Huntley, despite the fact that her bill would not have prevented the Soham murders.
May is trying to scare monger yet again. This time she’s saying that the CCDP will directly help save lives. Appearing in front of a panel of MPs on Thursday, May said out of 30,000 estimated cases last year where the police made an urgent request for communications data, between 25% and 40% of them resulted in lives being saved.
But as Big Brother Watch points out, these figures look inflated. Twenty five percent of 30,000 is 7,500, whereas the latest figures for murders between 2011 and 2012 was just 550. May didn’t say where exactly she’s got her data from.
But the PR assault doesn’t end there. On Tuesday the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police said the CCDP would help police infiltrate criminal gangs and cut down on gang violence: “Up to now we have been able to use the more readily available communications data but criminals are realising that and moving to new technology and platforms,” said the Chief Constable. “We already have specific examples of them using new platforms to defeat us.”
The problem is the police, by their very nature, will want to use every tool available to them to make their jobs easier, without regard for the privacy of the population. You only have to look at the recent hearings in Australia concerning their proposed communication reforms to see law enforcement isn’t even satisfied with a 2 year data retention law (rather they want ISPs to hold onto your web browsing history indefinitely).
The UK government doesn’t even see room for negotiation on the CCDP. Theresa May told the committee the government is fully committed to the draft bill and – according to the BBC – it would only be prepared to “look at its wording in certain areas” so it doesn’t lead to “misinterpretation”.
So there you have it. Despite the overwhelming public opposition to the CCDP, the government intends to plow ahead regardless, only stopping to tinker with the wording to make it more PR-friendly. Make your voice heard, 38 Degrees has a petition page right here and Avaaz has another going. Better yet write a letter to your local MP and let them know in clear terms that the CCDP is an infringement upon your online privacy.