Snooper’s Charter: the legislation that refuses to die

Snooper’s Charter: the legislation that refuses to die

Yesterday the world witnessed an annual bit of Ruritanian pantomime that passes for the unwritten British constitution in action: the state opening of Parliament and the Queen’s Speech.

According to a report in today’s Guardian, it would appear that the so-called Snooper’s Charter is proving harder to kill than a particularly stubborn vampire, in spite of Nick Clegg’s recent assurances.

This emerged from the text of the Queen’s Speech which gave the go-ahead to legislation, if required, to deal with the limited technical problem of there being many more devices including phones and tablets in use than the number of IP addresses that allow the authorities to identify who communicated with whom and when.

Published at almost the same time, a Downing Street background briefing note on investigating online crime says: “We are continuing to look at this issue closely and the government’s approach will be proportionate, with robust safeguards in place.” The note also reportedly states: “This is not about indiscriminately accessing internet data of innocent members of the public, it is about ensuring that police and other law enforcement agencies have the powers they need to investigate the activities of criminals that take place online as well as offline.”

At this juncture, it’s worth pointing out that we don’t know who is advising the government, but those advisers don’t seem to realise that an IP address can never be linked to a single human being, no matter what they do.

Civil liberties organisations are also worried by the rise of the Snooper’s Charter from the grave. Emma Carr, deputy director of Big Brother Watch, said: “The Queen’s Speech is clear that any work should pursue the narrow problem of IP matching, nothing more, and does not mandate the government to bring forward a bill. It is beyond comprehension for the Home Office to think that this gives them licence to carry on regardless with a much broader bill that has been demonstrated as unworkable and dangerous by experts, business groups and the wider public. It is not surprising that some officials may want to keep trying, having already failed three times under two different governments, to introduce massively disproportionate and intrusive powers, but that is quite clearly not what Her Majesty has put forward today”.

As is also helfully pointed out by The Register, the Home Office spent the past 5 months completely rehashing its proposed Communications Data Bill following a mauling from a select committee of MPs and peers in late 2012. Consequently, it’s hard to believe that the work Theresa May’s department has done on the redrafted bill to date will not – once again – appear before Parliament and predicts it could make reappearance in the 2014 Queen’s Speech – the last one before the next general election.

So, it looks like the lobbying will have to continue, perhaps assisted by holy water, wooden stakes and garlic for more efficacy. 😉

Author: Steve Woods

Generic carbon-based humanoid life form.