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Labour Party Moot 3rd Attempt to Revive UK Internet Snooping Law

Monday, Mar 3rd, 2014 (11:13 am) - Score 784

The British Labour Party looks set to take a 3rd swipe at reviving their failed Internet Snooping laws, which over the past 6 years have twice been rejected due to issues of unpopularity, cost, technical viability and general confusion.

Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, will today give a speech that calls for tougher action to tackle online child abuse, terrorism and cyber-crime. She is expected to warn that “growing online crime and abuse, and the use of online communications by criminals and extremists” is a serious problem and “the police, intelligence and security agencies need to be able to operate more effectively in this digital world.”

Cooper will also say that “online communication and technology is forcing us to think again about our traditional frameworks for balancing privacy and safety, liberty and security” and she’ll question why security forces “did not know more about the murderers of Drummer Lee Rigby“.

The language of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) is very familiar territory and reminiscent of Labour’s controversial Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP), which sought to force telecoms operators and broadband ISPs into logging a much bigger slice of your online activity and store it in a central database. But concerns over spiralling costs, data privacy and political opposition ultimately forced the plan to be shelved.

In 2010 the new coalition Government, which had initially pledged to “end the storage of internet and email records without good reason“, then decided to u-turn on that by reviving the IMP and calling it the Communications Data Bill. But strong opposition from the Liberal Democrats soon scuppered that plan (here), although a tiny bit of room was left in the May 2013 Queens Speech to Parliament for some degree of future resuscitation.

Since then the Edward Snowden NSA/GCHQ revelations have revealed how the country’s intelligence agencies have been busy tapping transatlantic fibre optic cables and even snooping on your Yahoo! Webcam feeds (here). All without any help from either an IMP or Comms Data Bill.

But despite all this Labour still seem keen to have yet another bash at introducing legislation that has already proven highly controversial, costly and difficult to implement. Similarly Cooper’s speech appears to be full of the usual muddled politician spin, which on the one hand talks about protecting citizens privacy from mass surveillance and on the other suggests how best to take it all away again (much the same as the last two attempts).

Finding which way is up in all this could prove difficult and it also assumes that Labour win the next 2015 General Election, which looks increasingly probable but is by no means a forgone conclusion. Ultimately we’ll have to wait to see what any eventual bill actually says before passing judgement but for now the direction is slowly becoming clear.

We can already hear the privacy advocates saying, “Oh no, not again.. don’t they ever stop trying.” Third time lucky perhaps, or unlucky, depending upon your perspective.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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