David gave evidence to the Joint Committee looking at the Draft Communications Data Bill. The session was reported by Politics Home:
“David Davis has raised concerns over the Government’s Draft Communications Data Bill, suggesting the new law would create “a huge security problem for individuals and the private sector”.
Speaking before a Joint Committee of Parliament, the Conservative backbencher questioned the “technical competence” of the so called “Snooper’s Charter”, and the “quality of evidence” given by by Government in it’s support.
He further suggested that due to the UK’s international agreements, some of the data collected under the new law could be available to other states.
The proposals, he went on, were “pretty intrusive” and and likely to be an “unnecessary intrusion on individual privacy”.
Nick Pickles, Director of Big Brother Watch, asked the Committee to investigate the “honesty and validity” of the Government’s argument that the new laws were simply maintaining existing capabilities.
He pointed out that due to rapidly evolving technologies, the “colour” of data available was changing, noting that whereas a citizen would not previously have details of which newspaper they read available, it is now possible to look through someone’s Internet history.
He added that the proposals may also be at odds comments made by William Hague at the International Cybersecurity Conference on the need for individual privacy, and warned that businesses may move abroad as a result of the laws.
Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group highlighted the massive increase in the amount of information available to authorities due to new technologies, suggesting there would be 1,000 times more data available over the next decade.
He pointed out that there are already a number of ways in which authorities can gain access to this data, including legal routes, intercepting data and seizure of devices.
Mr Killock also noted the dangers of allowing information on recipients of communications to be gathered, using the examples of someone regularly e-mailing Alcoholics Anonymous, in which case the content would be fairly obvious, and of a journalist regularly contacting someone who was on a list of potential Government leaks.
The witnesses questioned how the new laws might be applied by law enforcement agencies, noting that police forces have been found to use existing laws meant to uphold national security to investigate a range of other offences.
Mr Davis said: “My hunch is that what is happening is the agencies are quite understandably using every power they’ve got without any thought of restraint.”
Mr Pickles added: “One police force did give us a break down of communications data by offence type, and traffic offences is on there, terrorism is not… Humberside police confirmed that they have used this nearly 200 times in three years for traffic offences, and terrorism is not listed as one of the crimes, they even beautifully list the category ‘other non-crime’.”
Mr Pickles said the new laws would allow the state to look in “too much detail” into our lives, and suggested that “no democratic state” does this.
Dr Gus Hosein, Executive Director of Privacy International, made unfavourable comparisons with undemocratic nations who have enacted similar laws: “the collection of data through black boxes of ISPs ion order to monitor activities within a country and beyond a country have only been implemented on a national scale in China, Iran and Kazakhstan.” He added that Egypt, Pakistan and Tunisia use similar laws.
Mr Pickles added: “this is the kind of tracking that China and Iran are quite fond of.”
Mr Davis said that whilst “none of us want to undermine police effectiveness”, the proposals would “create a complete open-sesame”, adding “it’s not good law”.