Government snooping plans: why I’m not outraged, yet

Here’s the relevant part of the motion that was passed at the Liberal Democrat conference in Gateshead:

a) ensuring that there shall be no interception of telephone calls, SMS messages, social media, internet or any other communications without named, specific and time-limited warrants;

b) guaranteeing that any communications data kept by service providers in accordance with the EU Data Retention Directive are kept securely by the service providers, and that they be only released to government bodies with strict and strengthened safeguards;

c) ensuring that service providers are not mandated by law to collect communications data by any method that would also provide access to content information, unless specifically authorised by a warrant;

d) ensuring that service providers are not mandated by law to collect third-party communications data for non-business purposes by any method;

e) renegotiating the EU Data Retention Directive and changing how it is implemented into UK law, to provide a better balance towards privacy.

Even if they weren’t the party’s policy already, those five demands seem to me a good standard against which to judge any government plans for legislation in this area.

Do the proposals as reported in the media today meet them? I don’t think that question can be answered based on the media reports, as the reports are variously incomplete and inaccurate (see this post for example).

Given that three of the Liberal Democrats involved in the issue are Tom Brake, Lynne Featherstone and Julian Huppert, all with strong civil liberties credentials, there’s also good circumstantial reasons to be doubtful that the proposals will fail these five tests.

So I’ll blog further (hopefully tomorrow) when I’ve had a chance to dig out some more information on what is being planned.

UPDATE PS The current ambiguity over what the government is planning is highlighted by Nick Thornsby, who quotes the relevant government policy paper over on his blog.

UPDATE 2: Now I’ve found out more about what the plans involved, see my The web snooping plans: time to get campaigning and Why so many Liberal Democrats are angry.

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