Top: MPs debating their pay.
Bottom: MPs debating emergency legislation to erode human rights in the UK.
The government had approved the bill in Parliament after two consecutive days of debating. However, many have criticised that a bill as important as this one should not have been rushed through parliament like this. Baroness Lane Fox herself spoke out on the speed of this law being passed; “It makes me very nervous that bills that require such technical expertise are given so little time.”
Some have shown their deep concern for the emergency bill having been passed in such a short time. The International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium Director, Adrian Davis, says it will leave UK personal data more vulnerable to cyber-criminals. While the Telegraph claims DRIP will dramatically expand surveillance capabilities in a negative way.
However, Prime Minster David Cameron and Deputy Nick Clegg claim it is vital, generally blaming cyber and national security.
What is the DRIP Act?
The (DRIP Act) Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill is a bill which allows the government emergency powers over people’s telephone and internet records in a supposed attempt to stomp out serious crimes such as terrorism, paedophilia and so on. It’s been said that the new legislation is primarily aimed at companies which give the government telephone and internet connections. This can include anything such as logs of when calls have been made to what numbers had been dialled.
More worrying still is that the new bill does cover “legal intercept” rules, which really means that authorities can have the power to listen in to the content of communication, however, this can only legally take place if a warrant has been signed and approved.
The DRIP Act must be overlooked and the way in which it works must be reported every six months. The law also has a “sunset clause” where it must be looked at again by the government by the end of 2016. Privacy and civil liberties oversight board must also be set up in order to advice on government policy on counter-terrorism.
Why has this bill been introduced?
The DRIP Act was a response to the European Court of Human Rights, which struck down a similar bill by the government. David Cameron spoke on the matter, stating: “The public should be worried if we didn’t act quickly. Our ability to prevent terrorist attacks will be radically reduced.” Some feel this bill is a welcomed intervention from the government, on the wake of new ISIS rebel plans.
Deputy Prime Minster, Nick Clegg, and his party have shown support for the bill, stating: “No government embarks on emergency legislation lightly but I have been persuaded of the need to act and act fast.” With both the Lib-dems and Conservative support the bill managed to get cross party agreement from all three major parties.
Yet others have suggested that the Act’s anti-privacy agenda has broken international and Human rights law and if we do not oblige by our own laws, what are we fighting for?
Government officials have further explained that the access to communication data has helped police conduct successful drug raids, and has shown that it can reduce crime. The Act, Police claim, will become extremely useful in double checking alibis and when tracking 999 calls.
Government officials wish to all stress that that most people will only have data collected on numbers called and what time calls were placed as opposed to the content of communication.
Criticisms have been made on the ethics of the DRIP Act as it is giving the government huge amount of power over our privacy.
Civil Liberties campaigners have warned that the bill will invade people’s privacy, with The Open Rights group threatening legal action against the UK government. John Kilnock from the Open Right Group said that there is no need for the DRIP Act, stating: “The government knows that since the European Court of Justice ruling, there is no legal basis for making internet service providers retain our data so it is using the threat of terrorism as an excuse for getting this law passed.”
Terrorism has been used as a scapegoat for a number of legislations, the DRIP Act being just the last in a long string of troubling acts and laws that have been rushed through parliament. Whether Terrorism is a real threat or not is irrelevant, the real question seem to be, that if we are eroding and giving up everything we hold dear to fight against an enemy, what are we supposedly fighting to preserve?
Tom Watson MP and David Davis MP, with Liberty, are also suing the UK government over the DRIP Act.