Opinion: Communications Data Bill is a threat to liberty

The issue of the Communications Data Bill has found its way back into the national debate in the wake of another tragic terrorist attack. We again face the proposition of the government having the power to access vast amounts of data on our online communications and activates.

This Bill would force communications and internet providers to store web browsing history and details of messages sent on social media, webmail, voice calls over the internet and gaming, in addition to emails and phone calls. But also the time, duration, originator and recipient of any communication and the location of the device from which it was made. If the police, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, the intelligence agencies or HM Revenue and Customs are investigating a crime they do not need permission to access details of the communications however they do require a warrant to access the content of the communications. The warrant that they would require would be issued by the Home Secretary, the very person proposing these measures.

These measures are being proposed in a bid to arm the security services with the tools necessary to fight the ‘war on terror’, which has become more high tech. Is there any evidence that these measures would help in this fight? And how far would these measures be used in preventing crime? Could it be used for any crime, however small? With the IRS in America alleged to have used tax powers to scrutinise Tea Party affiliated groups, can a government be trusted with this level of power?

With the security services already having vast amounts of powers at their disposal, do they and the government need these powers, which, arguably, the government does even have the right to hold.

This bill is the Government grasping for powers that they believe will aid them in ‘the war against terror.” In their haste to gather more power they are ignorant to the negative effects on the freedoms of the people of Britain. We cannot give up the freedoms that our nation has held so dear and fought so hard for in the name of expedience.

With Nick Clegg stopping the Data Communication bill 3 times, party members, must stand resolute behind him in this fight. We Liberal Democrats stand for the individual; we are the party that champions individual freedoms and we most make that clear to the British public. Whether, like now, we are in government or in opposition the Liberal Democrats will always stand against government overreach.

Proponents of this bill repeat one line over and over “If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear”.

Why should the people of Britain have to fear their government? The government is not something the people should fear. The government should fear the people as a governments power is derived from the people not from its coercive power. This bill infringes on the freedoms and individual rights of the people of Britain.

* Daniel O'Malley is VIce President Communications of Liberal Youth Scotland and is studying Politics and International Relations at Aberdeen University

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  • The Terrorist have won by changing our laws an so our freedoms an life bad idea To me its simple if Police took a case to a Judge to warrant surveillance of commutations for particular individual the ISP’s an phone company will be obliged to do so from moment that order presented SO Why it has to be a blanket coverage like this bill really defeats me FREEDOM is scarce don’t make it worse

  • AlanPlatypus 31st May '13 - 11:12am

    Entirely right, reactionary legislation is always a threat to civil liberties. It derives from a feeling of helplessness and the desire to blame (and change) something but it is not in the interest of a liberal society to make these decisions lightly and without evidence.

  • A great article. Luckily, it seems many are dismissing the opportunistic actions of those with vested interests in this area as exactly that. However, of course, we cannot be complacent.

  • Lord Carlile, Jacqui Smith, Theresa May and Co could do worse than to listen to Thomas Paine:” He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.”

  • Dominic Curran 31st May '13 - 4:05pm

    This article doesn’t accord with what was said on Question Time last night. Speakers on that were quick to say that the issue wasn’t about seeking access to content. It seems that the liberty issue is one of the ease with which the security services can access either the details of the sending of communications as well as accessing the content. If the proposal were that, with permission (SofS warrant or judicial approval), the security services could access information about who sent something to whom and when (but, crucially, not ‘what’, ie the content), just as they can with mobile phone and landline call records, would that be something that would be supported by people here?

  • I suspect that the younger generations will support Clegg’s point much more than older generations because the vast majority of communications are about fun, getting to know people, and all very mundane. When an individual wishes to say something personal does it have to be read by people who will sit in some sealed environment and laugh at our jokes or do something more more sinister to us? The problem with ministers is they don’t really understand the internet and what it means to free people. Often they follow the police advice – check in the House of Lords today and see what senior police are thinking about free speech and freedom to meet with equality – they are the ones proposing we drop the equality bill – read what they say and then come back to us with a message for our young people. Will anyone trust the police and the secret agents? That is why Clegg is right – you cannot trust the “secret system” because it sucks completely!

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