The Big Issue with the snooper’s charter used to be the infringement of our privacy; then it became the possibility that the cost would be passed on to Internet users; now it is the fact that it might not be possible.
How times change.
This Blog opposes the snooper’s charter because it is a gross invasion of every UK citizen’s privacy. It doesn’t matter that it might make it easier to prevent terrorist attacks; the fact is that it proposes providing the government access to information that ministers and civil servants should have no right to see – the vast majority of it is none of their business.
When we learned, earlier this year, that the cost of Internet Service Providers implementing it was likely to be far more than the subsidy offered by the Conservative Government, and that each ISP’s clients were likely to face vastly inflated bills as a result, what was previously unacceptable became abominable – the Conservatives telling the public to pay for the government to spy on us.
Now, with the announcement that the same ISPs cannot envision a way to make the legislation work in any case, the abominable has become laughable.
But that doesn’t mean this story is over.
It is often when an initiative to restrict our freedoms seems to be failing that we need to be most vigilant against it.
How many times have we relaxed our guard, only to learn that harmful legislation has been put into action while we were catching our breath?
Britain’s biggest phone and web companies have raised serious questions over the cost and feasibility of their delivering the government’s “snooper’s charter” legislation.
Senior figures from BT, Vodafone, 02 Telefonica, EE and 3 have told MPs and peers that the proposals from the home secretary in the draft investigatory powers bill are so technically complex that it is not yet possible to make any meaningful estimate of the costs involved or whether they are technically possible.
The government has said it will underwrite all “reasonable” costs involved in introducing, retaining and storing internet connection records for 12 months for access by the police and security services.
But the web companies have voiced strong scepticism of the £174m figure, saying it will prove to be a serious underestimate. They have given a clear warning that it will take at least 18 months – long after the legislation has reached the statute book – before they know whether it will be technically feasible to retain and store everybody’s internet connection records.
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