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David Cameron urged to drop ‘naive and dangerous’ Communications Data Bill

David Cameron has again been urged to drop the Communications Data Bill, aka the ‘Snoopers Charter’. 

A group of nine academics sent a letter to the Prime Minister over the weekend, reports The Times [paywall] in its front page story today, criticising plans as ‘naive and technically dangerous.’

The group, consisting of web security experts, blast the proposals as naive and dangerous, echoing previous criticism from no less than a former head of MI5, the Information Commissioner and Cameron’s own deputy PM Nick Clegg.

The letter expresses a lack of confidence in the Communications Data Bill as an effective method of aiding police work while undermining innovation and internet user’s trust in the big ISPs – BT, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk and Orange – who would be required to sign up to the Bill. The letter, reproduced in full by the Big Brother Watch privacy group, states:  

Read Recombu Digital’s report on the Communications Data Bill

“Consumer confidence in network security is an essential foundation of the digital economy and the trend is towards encrypted communications to large websites. The Communications Data Bill cannot do anything effective about this shift. The provisions to force ISPs to monitor how customers use third party services will be expensive, will hinder innovation and will undermine the privacy of citizens visiting specialist websites (such as advice on pregnancy, HIV and mental health) without giving the police any new effective tools to monitor criminals who chat via social media. The bill combines high financial and privacy costs with low benefits for real police work.”

The letter is signed by Ian Brown, senior research fellow at Oxford Internet Institute, Ross Anderson, Professor of security engineering at Cambridge and Angela Sasse, Professor of Human-Centered Technology at UCL.

Elsewhere, the home secretary Theresa May has come under fire from members of her own party. Dominic Raab, one of 40 Conservative MPs, has blasted the proposals as Orwellian, warning that ‘jobsworth inspectors’ would abuse the powers that the Bill would grant them, according to a Telegraph article from two weeks ago.

The Communications Data Bill on paper would give police and security officials the power to monitor the online activities of individuals as well as who they interact with on sites like Facebook and Skype, but not the contents your direct messages or Skype conversations.

UK ISPs would have to keep a log of customers data for 12 months, to be made available to the authorities upon request.   

The Communications Data Bill is currently at a draft stage, requiring a rewrite and subsequent presentation to Parliament before the long process of it becoming official British law begins. 

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