According to the UK government, new proposals within the Communications Data Bill are being put forward in order to prevent and detect crime as well as protect national security. The government argues that unless legislation is amended to reflect changes in technology, the ability of public authorities to counter criminal and terrorist activity will be undermined. According to Jonathan Bamford, the Assistant Information Commissioner in the UK, the proposed Bill sees us once again "sleepwalking into a surveillance society."
Bamford is not alone in this view, unsurprisingly so when you consider that the changes to the law would, in effect, usher in the potential to create a new national database containing details of every telephone call and every email sent in the UK along with information coverage individual Internet access usage.
As Jamie Cowper from PGP Corporation says "You've got to admire the government's gall in attempting to bring in yet another 'super-database' with public confidence still in tatters over recent lapses in data protection. Surely it would be more logical to initially focus on fixing the existing databases and proving their security before introducing new ones?"
Ah yes, he has a point there. This is, after all, the same government which 'lost' the confidential banking data of 25 million people just last year, the latest in a long catalogue of data disasters which prove, if nothing else, that the government really cannot be trusted with our private information.
Brian Spector, general manager of the Workshare content protection group, agrees that the plans are a positive step towards tackling terrorism and protecting its citizens but argues the government needs to prove its ability to keep data secure if these proposals are to achieve widespread support. "Since losing the details of over 25 million child benefit claimants last November, the government has failed to effectively address the issue of data security. In March this year the same government was criticised by a joint select committee for its poor track record with data leaks, and earlier this month it was revealed that 600 HMRC staff have been disciplined over data security. The UK government needs to proactively address the information security issue before opposition parties, civil rights groups and the general public have confidence in its ability to keep data safe."