Looking round the blogs this evening, these are the responses I’ve found so far to today’s publication of the Draft Communications Data Bill, all of which are well worth reading in full:
Clause 1 which places the obligations on ISPs to collect data is still far too broad. “Interception” is not allowed, but that would seem to only rule out real-time monitoring as it uses the previous RIPA definition. ISPs could still be mandated to look at the content of all traffic to try to drag out “communications data”.
If this measure was passed in its current form, it would be straight on to the FFS list. Clause 1 is full of the sort of wide ranging power granted to a secretary of state that brings anyone who cares about civil liberties out in hives. Apparently it won’t be used in an inappropriate way. Aye, right. Let’s just not take that chance. Thankfully, though, thanks to Nick Clegg putting his foot down, this Bill is purely a draft.
Julian has sought and been given reassurances from the DPM’s office that if the bill is not changed to reflect something that is acceptable to the Lib Dems, then there will be no bill – we will block it. This isn’ the preferred option – we would like a bill that is in line with the motion passed at Spring Conference. But if that cannot be agreed we retain the right of (effective) veto (unless Labour vote with the Tories of course!).
You may notice a theme there… and the man himself has written too:
My position, and that of the Liberal Democrats, is absolutely clear. We oppose giving Ministers or anyone else broad disproportionate powers to snoop on the public. We must hugely tighten the controls on how communications data that has been collected can be accessed. Both of these concerns must be met in the final version of this Bill. Only then would we support it. Only then will we have a Bill which is fit for Parliament. If we do this right, we can have a Bill that is better than the current situation. RIPA is an awful Act, and far too lax, and other pieces of legislation allow access to this data in a way that is even easier!
As for my own views, compared to everyone else they can perhaps be summarised as: remember Paul Strasburger!
The party will be putting forward Julian Huppert from the MPs and Paul Strasburger from the Lords [for the Pre Legislative Scrutiny committee]. If you have read this far, I suspect Julian is very familiar to you but Paul may well be less so. He is an excellent choice as he both has a background in IT and strong liberal instincts. When I’ve discussed this issue with him, he sounds as questioning and as liberal as Julian. That is a good sign.
UPDATE: As if by magic / Sod’s law / blind chance / cunning conspiracy (delete to taste depending on your outlook on life) Jonathan Calder has added his own post just after I compiled this list: “It seems odd that the job of Liberal Democrat activists is now seen to be campaigning against the proposals of a government of which the Liberal Democrats are a part”.