The argument over the Government’s proposed communications data bill went nuclear last week when the founder of Wikipedia compared the planned surveillance of web traffic to that found in Iran and China.
Jimmy Wales says his legendary site will encrypt all its Internet connections with the UK if the bill goes ahead.
And Wales is far from alone in his criticism. Under the new law, mobile phone companies and Internet service providers will have to keep a record of every email sent, phone call made and page clicked. That’s an extension of previous powers, which obliged phone companies to keep records of phone calls and text messages for 12 months.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the web, entered the fray last week, warning that the UK would loose its valuable international reputation as a free web nation. He urged the public to campaign against the bill.
If Berners-Lee was moderate in his language, others have not been so measured.
Wales told members of both Houses of Parliament examining the proposed legislation: "It is not the sort of thing I'd expect from a western democracy. It is the kind of thing I would expect from the Iranians or the Chinese and it would be detected immediately by the Internet industry."
Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group, said: "Bluntly these are as dangerous as we expected, and represent unprecedented surveillance powers in the democratic world."
Home Secretary Theresa May argues that burgeoning online crime means law enforcement must follow where cyber criminals lead them. But industry representatives warned parliamentarians that the very act of creating such a vast data store would attract those criminals.
Linx, the London Internet Exchange, said a raid on this stored information – including personal details of millions of UK internet users – would amount to, ‘a significant threat to national security’.
The same body warned that the Government would now be in control of a massive ‘profiling engine’, which could ‘represent a dramatic shift in the balance between personal privacy and the capabilities of the state to investigate and analyse the citizen’.
You can join campaigns against the bill becoming law online and read more about the legislation at the Parliament website.
A couple of campaigns.