Entanet, the leading wholesale communications services provider and an influential voice in the industry, has reacted to the government plans to push an emergency bill on data retention through as a sad day for British democracy and a move that will trample on the rights of citizens.
The European Court of Justice has previously stated that the EU’s Data Retention Directive is invalid and the Communications Data Bill has twice been shelved. In 2012, the UK government said it would take a methodical and deeply consultative approach to reviewing the Bill and involve key parties as appropriate. But the government announced earlier this week that it was rushing through legislation before Parliament recedes for the summer.
In Entanet’s view the action is little more than stitch-up, being put forward as it is at a time when there will be no time for further consultation or for MPs to consider it in any detail.
Entanet Product Manager, Paul Heritage-Redpath, who gave evidence to the UK Joint Committee on the Communications Data Bill in October 2012, states: “At a time when the Snowden revelations have shown the enormous extent to which ordinary citizens’ private communications are caught up in government surveillance activities, it is outrageous that laws affecting each and every one of us are being passed seemingly without any of the normal parliamentary oversight or debate.
“I gave evidence to the Joint Committee of the House of Commons and House of Lords speaking against the thoroughly discredited Communications Data Bill. In their report that Select Committee said [para 284]*1: ‘Before re-drafted legislation is introduced there should be a new round of consultation with technical experts, industry, law enforcement bodies, public authorities and civil liberties groups.’
“The report also said that there should be ‘stronger safeguards’ and that service providers should be given a clear understanding of why the legislation is necessary.’ Even Charles Farr, director-general, Office of Security and Counter-Terrorism in the Home Office, conceded in his evidence that discussions with communications and Internet companies ‘need to continue and go into more detail as we get closer to the time when the Bill is enacted, should it be so.’
“It seems that now, none of that consultation is going to take place. There has been zero consultation. Instead, we will have a law that has been rushed through that gives the government tremendous power – and which the European Court of Justice has rejected. Once again the UK state is flying in the face of public opinion, ignoring industry experts and trampling on citizens’ rights in an attempt to extend its powers over technologies those in power understand little of and have even less control over. This is a sad day for British democracy.”