You should be horrified by DRIP (Wired UK)


If you care about digital rights you should be horrified by
DRIP. The UK’s new Data Retention and Investigatory Powers law was
rushed through parliament just before MPs go on holiday, with very
little debate.

The law forces communications companies to store all our data
for up to 12 months so that the security services can snoop on them
should they so wish. Companies were already doing this before, but
then an April ruling by the European Court of Justice stated that
the mass data collection interferes with “fundamental rights to
respect for private life and to the protection of personal data”.
DRIP — which went from draft to law in just over a week –
reinstates the legal framework for spying on this personal data. If
that’s not bad enough, DRIP attempts to extend the territorial
reach of the UK’s powers to mandate the interception of
communications across the globe. Any foreign firms holding data
relating to UK citizens can be served a warrant to hand over
information. This means that companies beyond the jurisdiction of
the UK’s Data Protection Act must also store UK citizens data. How
will this be safeguarded?

The rationale for this embarrassingly hurried law? National
security. That old, oft-dangled chestnut. The implication being
that if you oppose DRIP you must not care about the safety of
British citizens. Government knows best dear, so just pipe

The ease with which it was passed is not just bad news for the
UK, but bad news for the world — it normalises the idea of a
surveillance state, as pointed out by Paul Bernal. “If we, as a supposedly mature,
liberal democracy believe that mass surveillance is OK, then that
means that anyone could do it. Indeed, that any sensible state
should do it.”

As Supernanny would say, this is completely unacceptable
[although she’d pronounce it “unasseptible”]. This bill was not
scrutinised by parliament. I’m not sure many MPs even have the
digital skills to do so — something flagged up by Martha Lane-Fox in the House of Lords. And even if they did,
there wasn’t enough time to do anything about it. It all happened
within eight days, despite the fact that the ECJ judgment was
delivered in April. “It makes me extremely nervous that Bills which
require such deep technical expertise are given so little time,”
said Lane-Fox. The subtext is: parliamentarians are making
decisions about stuff they know nothing about.

Thankfully the bill has a “sunset clause”, which means it will
expire in 2016 and have to be re-evaluated — by which time,
presumably, it is hoped that we will have all calmed down and just
accepted it. Why not just evaluate it properly now? Or have a
shorter sunset clause to cover the government’s botty while it
comes up with something less invasive?

Despite its feeble name, DRIP is a pernicious invasion of
privacy that sets a worrying precedent at a time when public trust
in the state is at an all-time low.

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