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Lib Dems: Gov committee will ‘kill’ the Communications Data Bill

A live blog of yesterday’s Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton hints that the committee analysis the Communications Data Bill in its current form will “kill” it off.

There’s a desire to “kill the bill” as it “simply can’t work,” according to Julian Huppert told a meeting at the Lib Dem conference.

The Guardian reports Hupper saying: “I think it’s quite clear that this bill, as it currently is, including any small changes to it, simply can’t work. It’s far too broad, it doesn’t work technically. There’s just too many problems with it.”

Lib Dems: Gov committee will ‘kill’ the Communications Data Bill

Huppert predicted that the committee – of which he is a member – will “say something like: you’ve got the language wrong, you’ve got the whole concept of the bill wrong, you have to start again… So I think that will kill this bill.”

Kill Bill: Parts 1 and O2

Companies including Telefonica UK (owners of O2) have criticised the proposals as being impractical and costly. Submitting written evidence earlier this year, Telefonica UK told the committee that “collecting transmitting data introduces expensive duplication, drastically reduces the usefulness of the data collected and a harsh commercial imbalance in the communications industry.”

Virgin Media expressed a concern that communications data could be leaked to or accessed by third parties for means beyond combatting crime and terrorism – the Bill’s ostensible aims.

“Private companies and individuals regularly make applications to court for disclosure of a wide range of personal data for a wide range of reasons, including defamation, copyright infringement and security and confidentiality breaches, and these applications are frequently granted,” said a Virgin Media spokesperson. “The impact of the Bill on these applications and their scope needs to be considered.”

Having to sift through reams and reams of innocuous wheat to get to the chaff of criminal activity is a the concern shared by ISPA, the Internet Service Provider’s Association. ISPA’s summarised that: “[ISPs] are going to be asked to put probes in the network and they are upset about the idea… it’s expensive, it’s intrusive to your customers, it’s difficult to see it’s going to work and it’s going to be a nightmare to run legally.”

Despite the widespread opposition to the Bill from ISPs and members of the public submitting evidence, Huppert is in favour of salvaging “some of [the bill],” namely proposals which would see those receiving abuse or threats online or through their phones to opt-in to surveillance.

This week writer Leo Traynor blogged about how he retreated offline after suffering abuse for years – only to eventually find the true identity of his culprit after investigating himself when the authorities couldn’t help. Though this happened outside of the UK it’s a reminder perhaps how a revised Comms Data Bill could help prevent the very real abuse that people receive online. 

Image credit: Flickr user Mike_fleming

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