International privacy activists voice their objection to the Communications Data Bill

News & Analysis

Out of concern for the potential international ramifications of the Communications Data Bill, fifteen of Privacy International's partner activists and organisations have signed a joint letter urging the UK to consider the detrimental impact this law will have around the world.

The letter reads:

Dear Editor,
The United Kingdom’s proposed Communications Data Bill is not only sinister in its intention to enable the UK government to monitor and control the internet, but it is ill-informed. Plainly, the internet is a different structure for communications than landline telephones. Yet the Communications Data Bill is grounded in the justification that because the police can find out who you call from your landline, they should also be able to know what websites you visit and who you chat to online. Policy formulated in  such a way is destined to fail, with potentially disastrous consequences. 
This approach forges a regressive and invasive path that will swiftly be followed by repressive regimes  across the globe. Amongst other backwards measures, the Bill contemplates paying companies to  create, collect and retain data solely for use by the government, relying on little more than superficial 
local safeguards to ensure that the rights of individuals are protected. The concept of governments offering money to Internet companies to collect data undermines the protections ensure by a competitive digital economy, where services can thrive by offering their users privacy protections. The adoption of such legislation is feared not only by British residents but by residents of countries which habitually adopt en masse the legislative failings of the United Kingdom and the United States.  The efforts of governments everywhere to regulate free speech and communication online has become a race to the bottom. 
It does not take much imagination to see how provisions that allow the Government to order companies to monitor how their customers use third party services offer a dangerous international precedent. Imagine the outcry if the Syrian Government passed a law requiring companies based in London to make available data about Syrian citizens. 
Every repressive regime is watching, waiting, for this law to be passed. It offers them a model of surveillance that allows the online activity of every citizen to be recorded and details of email conversations to be logged at the behest of civil servants. If this law is passed similar surveillance frameworks will come to be adopted across the globe and justified by governments as a simple act of keeping apace with global standards.
We implore the British government to think seriously about the implications of such regressive legislation, not only for the country’s own citizens but for the citizens of the world. 
Yours sincerely,
The Undersigned
Ababacar Diop, JONCTION, Senegal
Pablo Palazzi, Org. University of San Andres, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Allan Maleche, KELIN, KenyaArthit Suriyawongkul, Thai Netizen Network, Thailand
Levi Kabwato, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Namibia.
Ramiro Ugarte, Asociacion Derechos Civiles
Shahzad Ahmad, Bytes for All, Pakistan
Ahmed Swapan, Voices for Interactive Choice and Empowerment, Bangladesh
Pirongrong Ramasoota, Thai Media Policy Center, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand
Sinta Dewi Rosadi, Centre for Cyber Law Studies, University of Padjadjaran Bandung, Indonesia
Sunil Abraham, Centre for Internet and Society, India
Vivian Newman Pont, Dejusticia, Colombia
Benjamin Baretto, Foundation for Media Alternatives, Philippines
Claudio Ruiz, Derechos Digitales, Chile
Barry Steinhardt, Chair of Friends of Privacy USA.

A copy of the full letter is attached.