Britain's Communications Data Bill -- AKA the Snooper's Charter -- would effectively eliminate private communications in the UK, giving government and the police the power to spy on virtually everything you do online (which is rapidly merging with everything you do, full stop). The major ISPs in the UK have apparently been turned to the government's cause, and have been quietly supporting the bill, which strips their customers of any semblance of privacy.
The government defends this proposal by saying that they're not intercepting "messages," only "envelopes." That is, they'll get the subject lines, social graph data, who is talking, where, how often, and who replies, how long the messages are, and so on. I like to imagine Alan Turing taking this approach to informational significance: "Mr Churchill, I'm sorry, there's no point in what you're asking us to do: all we can decode from the Nazis is who is sending messages, who receives them, what they're about, where they're sent from, how often they're sent, and how long they are. Nothing compromising." (Then I imagine the ghost of Turing haunting Home Secretary Teresa May, who claims that none of that kind of data compromises Britons' privacy).
In an open letter to the major ISPs, the Open Rights Group, Big Brother Watch, and Privacy International accuse the ISPs of entering into a conspiracy of silence on the surveillance system:
It has become clear that a critical component of the Communications Data Bill is that UK communication service providers will be required by law to create data they currently do not have any business purpose for, and store it for a period of 12 months.
Plainly, this crosses a line no democratic country has yet crossed – paying private companies to record what their customers are doing solely for the purposes of the state.
These proposals are not fit for purpose, which possibly explains why the Home Office is so keen to ensure they are not aired publicly.
There has been no public consultation, while on none of your websites is there any reference to these discussions. Meetings have been held behind closed doors as policy has been developed in secret, seemingly the same policy formulated several years ago despite widespread warnings from technical experts.
That your businesses appear willing to be co-opted as an arm of the state to monitor every single one of your customers is a dangerous step, exacerbated by your silence
Consumers are increasingly concerned about their privacy, both in terms of how much data is collected about them and how securely that data is kept. Many businesses have made a virtue of respecting consumer privacy and ensuring safe and secure internet access.
Sadly, your customers have not had the opportunity to comment on these proposals. Indeed, were it not for civil society groups and the media, they would have no idea such a policy was being considered.
We believe this is a critical failure not only of Government, but a betrayal of your customers' interests. You appear to be engaged in a conspiracy of silence with the Home Office, the only concern being whether or not you will be able to recover your costs.
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.