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2015 Queen’s Speech Touts Revival of Tough UK Internet Snooping Laws

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015 (11:49 am) - Score 990
the queen uk

The annual Queens Speech (State Opening of Parliament), in which a man with a big black rod bangs on a door and a poor old lady with a heavy head ornament gets to speak unexcitedly about forthcoming Government policy, has unsurprisingly confirmed that stricter UK Internet snooping laws are on the way.. again.

Admittedly we don’t tend to get a lot of detail from the speech itself, although it does usually succeed in delivering a rough indication of Government policy planning for the next 12 months. The fact that we just had the 2015 General Election, which saw a majority Conservative Government come to power, is another reason to pay attention.

Never the less we suspect that nobody will be surprised to learn that this year’s speech has included the first tentative details concerning new Internet censorship and citizen monitoring laws, including a third attempt to revive the hugely controversial Internet Snoopers Charter (Communications Data Bill).

Queen Elizabeth II said:

Measures will also be brought forward to promote social cohesion and protect people by tackling extremism. New legislation will modernise the law on communications data, improve the law on policing and criminal justice, and ban the new generation of psychoactive drugs.”

As the UK Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) said recently, “Whilst law enforcement should have reasonable access to data, this should only be after a rigorous parliamentary debate with input from industry and civil society that strengthens oversight and based on the grounds of proportionality and necessity..”

Internet Snooping Recap

The snoopers charter, which threatens to force broadband ISPs into logging a much bigger slice of everyone’s online activity (possibly including the snooping of encrypted communications, if that’s even remotely possible, but NOT the content of your communication), has been tried by both of the past two Government’s and failed due to a mountain of concerns over privacy, proportionality, technical feasibility and cost.

Back in 2012 the Joint Committee responsible for conducting pre-legislative scrutiny of the Comms Data Bill described the legislation as “overkill” and called for it to be “significantly amended” (here). At the time Lord Blencathra, Chair of the Committee, said the bill needed to “strike a better balance between the needs of law enforcement and other agencies and the right to privacy“.

It’s understood that the bill was then largely rewritten, although the previous Government’s Liberal Democrat coalition partners ultimately blocked that legislation and thus the public has never seen it. Hopefully the new bill will at least be reflective of the significantly amended text and not the much criticised flops before it.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has been pushing for these laws like a lawnmower to grass and if she adopts the amended text then we’re unlikely to see stiff opposition arise from the otherwise supportive Labour benches; well they were the first party to push for even tougher legislation, back when it was called the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP).

The bill is also likely to act as a partial replacement for the Data Retention and Investigation Powers Act (DRIP), which is the temporary legislation that was rapidly introduced last year after the original Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) was declared “invalid” by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) because among other things it breached the “fundamental right to respect for private life and the fundamental right to the protection of personal data” (here).

Ironically RIPA was tame compared to what is now being proposed through the revived Comms Data Bill, so expect the familiar language of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) to ramp up as the bill makes its way slowly into the public spotlight.

As the Prime Minister, David Cameron, said recently, “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens ‘as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone’. It’s often meant we have stood neutral between different values.” Yep, accursed laws, who needs liberty, fairness and freedom anyway! boo. Far better to arrest and spy on people without good reason. Well if it works for Turkey, China, Iran and Russia then why not us too.

Meanwhile we’d much rather see Dame Edna Everage do the annual Queens Speech, although admittedly that’s an entirely different kind of “Queen“, but it would be infinitely more interesting to watch.

UPDATE 12:39pm

The new legislation will simply be called the Investigatory Powers Bill and the accompanying Queen’s Speech documentation describes it as follows.

Brief Summary of the Investigatory Powers Bill

The purpose of this legislation is to:
• Provide the police and intelligence agencies with the tools to keep you and your family safe.

• Address ongoing capability gaps that are severely degrading the ability of law enforcement and intelligence agencies ability to combat terrorism and other serious crime.

• Maintain the ability of our intelligence agencies and law enforcement to target the online communications of terrorists, paedophiles and other serious criminals.

• Modernise our law in these areas and ensure it is fit for purpose.

• Provide for appropriate oversight and safeguard arrangements.

The main benefits of these clauses would be:
• Better equipping law enforcement and intelligence agencies to meet their key operational requirements, and addressing the gap in these agencies’ ability to build intelligence and evidence where subjects of interest, suspects and vulnerable people have communicated online.

• Maintain the ability of our intelligence agencies to target the online communications of terrorists, and other relevant capabilities.

• Provide for appropriate oversight arrangements and safeguards.

• This will respond to issues raised in the independent review by the Independent Reviewer of Counter-Terrorism legislation, which is due to be published shortly.

The main elements of the clauses are:
• The legislation covers all investigatory powers including communications data, where the Government has long maintained that the gap in capabilities are putting lives at risk.

• The legislation will enable the continuation of the targeting of terrorist communications and other capabilities.

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Mark Jackson
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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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8 Responses
  1. Avatar sentup.custard

    Much as I am against unnecessary government snooping, I don’t see that the existence or otherwise of any law really makes any difference. What they can’t do legally, they will do illegally anyway!

  2. Avatar timeless

    the kick in the teeth is that unless you watched the speech that this was conveniently omitted from the news, not one mention on the news.

    • Avatar carl

      There was one brief and I mean very brief mention of the ” snoopers charter ” yesterday morning on BBC news.

      The presenter just said ” and the snoopers charter will be mentioned in the Queens speech today ” and that was it.

      The story about the FIFA arrests conveniently took up headline position which was handy for the Government looking to sneak in the snoopers charter without a lot of people noticing.

      Well that was the plan anyway.

      It backfired Mr Cameron, everyone noticed.

      Anyway,back to web surfing using untraceable TOR browser.

      Not that I’m doing anything wrong of course I just respect my privacy, like Mr Cameron and his family do.

  3. Avatar cyclope

    Wonder why ? This is why this shower should not of been voted in

  4. Avatar dragoneast

    Interesting that as the American legislators start to get uppity about it all, the UKs all fall into line. Par for the course. Thank God for America (and probably the pale imitation of the EU), they’d get away with it all without them. (Though of course like any good Hollywood movie, they’ve got both the gangsters and the goodies).

    • Avatar carl

      Yes the Yanks always want everything on their terms.

      They wanted GCHQ to help the NSA spy on British citizens, but they don’t want GCHQ to spy on American citizens.

      Both the US and UK Governments will just do what they like anyway.

      All this is just a cabaret act for the mainstream media.

    • Avatar dragoneast

      The nanny state is alive an’ kickin’ as even the Queen is into PR speak. Dame Edna’s so out of date in Cam’s New World kingdom. Not so Mark, master of the Dark Art!

    • Avatar Portynews

      Erm the queen doesn’t even write that “speech” its written by some government minister. Probably does not even know what it says until the last minute. She just reads out what they wrote. Another dated government/Royal re-opening of parliament thing in this country going back more than a few decades.

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