Information Commissioner sounds warning over Draft Communications Data Bill

An important intervention today in the debate over the Draft Communications Data Bill. The Information Commissioner has issued a strongly-worded warning about its impact if implemented:

Plans to monitor all Britons’ online activity risk uncovering “incompetent criminals and accidental anarchists” rather than serious offenders, the information commissioner has warned…

Christopher Graham said the “really scary people” could simply avoid detection by changing their behaviour…

It was up to Parliament to decide on the merits of the proposals, he added, but there were “important data protection principles at stake”, such as the length of time material was retained, the risk of unauthorised access and whether it was fully disposed off at the end of the period.

“There is a judgement to be made between the security community saying ‘we have to have this stuff’ and the civil liberties community which says this is a gross intrusion of privacy and of citizens’ rights.”

The legislation, if approved, should be kept under consistent review to ensure it was working as intended, Mr Graham said. [BBC]

Meanwhile, the Interception of Communications Commissioner, Paul Kennedy, has welcomed the proposals. Given he is a strong contender for the worst regulator in the UK, not to mention the most complacent regulator in the UK, his backing for the proposals is actually an excellent reason for doubting them.

* Mark Pack is Party President and Co-leader of the party. He is editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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  • Simon Titley 16th Oct '12 - 10:16pm

    So naturally, Liberal Democrat MPs will block this Bill.

    Won’t they?

  • Richard Dean 17th Oct '12 - 12:31am

    I wonder of the two commissioners are simply be responding as they may be required to do in accordance with their different functions?

    The Information Commissioner’s functions including upholding data protection and privacy rights. His job seems to be about protecting good guys, so his warnings should certainly be taken seriously.

    The Interception of Communications Commissioner seems to have a quite different function, to check that principles of necessity, proportionality and other RIPA safeguards are adhered to in the issuing of intercept warrants. Maybe this job is seen as more about effectiveness in catching bad guys.

    I guess our parliamentarians’ tasks are to define these jobs and find the right balance between the two. It could certainly be interesting to learn more, and to see which way parliament goes.

  • Andrew Suffield 17th Oct '12 - 9:24am

    So naturally, Liberal Democrat MPs will block this Bill.

    Won’t they?

    What bill? This is not a bill, it’s just a draft. If a bill is introduced, it is quite unlikely to look anything like this draft – the party’s already more-or-less said “no” to leaving the draft unaltered.

    Whether we’ll see a significantly rewritten bill or just no bill at all is still up in the air, as it what that rewritten bill might contain.

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