Online Users Upset With Draft of U.K. Communications Data Bill

Published Friday, August 10, 2012 -

The government of the U.K. recently published a draft of the controversial Communications Data Bill, which aims to allow unparalleled interception of data about UK citizens' online communications and voice calls. This has many users of the internet very upset because they feel it is an unprecedented invasion of personal privacy.

Data protection and privacy watchdog the Information Commissioner's Office is struggling to distance itself from growing controversy over the government’s plans. If adopted, the proposals would grant the GCHQ access to online communications and calls data. Such a move would risk putting a further strain on business at a time when European data protection regulations are already difficult and complex. This Bill might also undermine the ICO's role as guardian of data protection and privacy standards.

The ICO has issued a statement saying: "The Information Commissioner's role in this Home Office project, both under this government and the last, has been to press for the necessary limitations and safeguards to mitigate the impact on citizens' privacy." The statement was issued as Home Office estimates that the scheme would cost £2bn over the first decade."We will continue to seek assurances, including the implementation of the results of a thorough Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA)," said the ICO. "Ultimately, the decision as to whether to proceed with the project is one which has to be taken by Parliament," the ICO added.

In response to the outcry, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said that the proposals may now be put before Parliament in draft form. An ICO spokesperson noted that any regulation must be "appropriate and proportionate" to the need, but stressed that it was a matter for the Home Office. However, a Freedom of Information request has revealed that the ICO had said in internal documents in 2010 that a convincing case for such a plan had not been made, and that there were risks any such legislation could lead to innocent people being accused of criminal activity. How this proposal will affect online gambling operators has not yet been determined.

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