Time to stop the Snooping charter before it starts

And image of a webcam with a HAL-like light in the centre
Image Copyright (c) 2012 Ryan P Cartwright - released into Public Domain

Some of you will know I’m a bit of a [freedom](https://crimperman.org/tag/freedom/) advocate – particularly when it comes to using the Internet/WWW. I’ve already [explained why censorship and blocking are non-starters](https://crimperman.org/2012/02/29/why-internet-blocking-will-not-protect-our-children/) when it comes to the web and spoken out about [Internet censorship](https://crimperman.org/2012/01/17/why-this-website-will-go-black-and-sopa-is-bad-for-the-uk/). During the last governments reign I joined those campaigning against the monitoring of private Internet usage on a national scale. In short we won – the proposed bill to force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to keep records of all their customers communications was dropped.

Well now the current government is looking to resurrect that bill as the Communications Data Bill (CDB). This bill would require ISPs to:

* keep a year’s worth of complete records of all the websites you have visited as well as when and how frequently you visit them
* keep a year’s worth of every eMail you send and receive
* keep a year’s worth of every phone call you make to or through them (e.g. through Internet telephony like Skype)
* keep a year’s worth of every letter and fax communication between you and them or sent through them (not sure why an ISP would have records of letters I have sent but this proves the bill is worded as a catch-all).

Of course the Home Secretary says this is for prevention of crime and advocates of the bill are already dropping the key terms “terrorist” and “paedophile” into conversations about this proposed act as often as they can.

But this bill is yet another poorly thought out that attempt to monitor what everybody is doing and thus keep an eye on all of us – innocent or not. “That’s fine” you think, “I’m not breaking any laws. If the government wants a record of my visits to [http://www.cakewrecks.com](http://www.cakewrecks.com) that’s fine with me
. This bill won’t affect me.” Except it will.

* ISPs queued up to decry the last bill saying how much overhead storing all this data would add to their business costs. Those costs will be passed onto the customers. That affects you.
* There are and should always be concerns over the security of this data. These records will contain every eMail you send, every visit to your bank’s website, your shopping habits, your credit card details used when you shopped. That is a very tempting target to a lot of
people. That affects you.
* Mobile providers are also ISPs now so this new law covers them. All you rmobile phone calls and mobile web browsing kept on record. That affects you.
* The records will also contain details of anything you may have said or did – even in innocence – which could be deemed in breach of somebody’s copyright. That music file you sent to your friend so they could tell if they wanted to buy the album? That clip from Youtube you downloaded and used in a presentation without getting a licence? Imagine if a media firm suspected you of “stealing” their intellectual property. How far a leap is it to imagine that they would ask/demand the ISP hand over your browsing habits regardless of whether there is any proof? An innocent eMail becomes evidence in a private lawsuit. That affects you.
* The records could be used to filter out any dissent against the government and highlight those who disagree with government policy. They could use this to censor things they disagree with. This affects you.

Woah stop. Did I just say the government could use this data to highlight those who oppose it? Surely that kind of censorship wouldn’t happen in a democratic country like the UK?

Except it does.

Enter the [neverseconds blog debacle](http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/neverseconds-school-dinner-blogger-martha-payne-banned-from-taking-photos-of-her-meals-7854487.html)

You’ve heard this one right?

* A 9 year old girl blogs about her school dinners, including photos and rates them for health and nutrition.
* The site proves successful gaining over 2 million visits and “celebrity endorsement”.
* The site also [raises thousands of pounds](http://www.justgiving.com/neverseconds) for a charity that aims to feed children in poorer nations.
* The local authority (Argyll & Bute) hear about it and don’t like the fact that this blog occasionally paints a somewhat negative image of the schools meals.
* The local authority instruct the school to stop the girl from blogging or taking photos of her meals saying it puts their staff “at risk”(?).
* There’s a public outcry and show of support for the blog.
* The local authority issue a statement to say they are standing by their actions regardless.

> Update: As I published this post the BBC were reporting that Argyll & Bute have climbed down and are no longer banning the neverseconds blog. But they did try to censor and only changed their mind when it went public.

Censorship (or attempted censorship anyway) here in the UK. Yeah I know it seems daft to jump from a local council in a tizzy about slating school meals (funny how nobody stopped Jamie Oliver – who funnily enough supported this blog) to a national goverment sifting through eMails to find incriminating data on someone they want out of the way. The problem is that Argyll & Bute’s actions show that politicians often act in an ill-informed way which is harmful to the people they are meant to serve. Yes there are a lot of politicians but honestly I have never heard of one who genuinely seems to understand the Internet and associated technologies. Once these records are being kept, broadband costs will rise and it will open the door for the next phase which will be to open this data up to other interested parties.

This is fine if you are happy with the government (or anyone they deem fit) sifting through your communications. But if you are ok with it, can I ask a question: do you use envelopes or do you send everything on a postcard? I’ll presume you use envelopes so then ask your
self why? It’s not illegal stuff you are sending. It’s just a birthday card to you best friend. But you use an envelope because 1. you don’t want you friend to see it until their birthday and 2. it’s nobody else’s business what is in that envelope.

I appreciate there will be some purported legitimate reasons for wanting to monitor certain people for particular reasons but there’s a pretty decent chance that anyone who is using the Internet for criminal activity (and copyright infringement is not a crime) will already work around the bits where they leave a trace. You know those “hacking” groups like Anonymous and LolSec? Ever wonder why they rarely get caught? They’re good at hiding. ISP records would not catch them. In fact there’s a good chance they’ll hijack somebody else’s wireless and put the blame on an innocent person.

> [Write to your MP today](http://www.openrightsgroup.org/campaigns/cdb)

The CDB is not in the public interest, it is poorly conceived and bad for the country. It does affect each of us and if we sit and wait it will be too late for us to stop it. The openrights group have an excellent page which enables you to [eMail your MP](http://www.openrightsgroup.org/campaigns/cdb) about this. It takes a few seconds to do and could make a big difference. If you live in the UK I urge you to do so as soon as possible. Let’s stop this before it begins.

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