The draft Communications Data Bill: Walking the Road to Serfdom

In the Road to Serfdom, F. A. Hayek warned us of the danger of tyranny that comes when the government tries to centrally plan a state. Thanks to the CCDP proposals, we are further down that road

Have we lost internet privacy for good?
Dominique Lazanski
On 15 June 2012 07:48

As you will no doubt have seen, the Home Secretary Teresa May announced plans to introduce the Communications Capabilities Development Program yesterday. The draft Communications Data Bill will enable the government to monitor all Internet traffic in the UK without a warrant and it will force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to retain communications data in the event that the government wants to review the content it contains. This is unprecedented.

Emma Carr pointed out yesterday that the ability to monitor this content already exists to a certain extent. These proposals widen the scope of the monitoring and will create a database that was supposed to be rolled back under the Coalition government.

I have a number of serious reservations about this proposal. In addition to the fact that this is a full frontal attack on civil liberties, the draft bill undermines the rule of law.  A democracy is only as strong as its legal certainty and any attempt to collect data without a warrant upsets the fundamental underpinnings of a free society. This bill will create so much legal uncertainty that it has the potential to disincentivise individuals and businesses from living and working in this country – at a time when job growth and the economy is so important.

I worry that this bill will undermine the very work that the UK is doing on international digital issues.There is a political disconnect between the digital policies at home and those that the UK are advocating on an international level. While the UK is encouraging free and open Internet based on the societal freedom to countries like China and Iran, it is acting in the very same way as those regimes at home – by monitoring and managing each and every person’s individual communications.

And speaking of the Internet, ISPs will be forced to take on capabilities unknown to them before. Any regulation that forces ISPs away from their core functions of traffic management and infrastructure development will inevitably lead to poorer Internet access and less economic development. Is this what we need when the UK can’t even manage to deliver high-speed rural broadband?

Theresa May called those of us fighting against this bill, ‘conspiracy theorists’. Am I a conspiracy theorist if I believe in the rule of law, the freedom to communicate, and the ability to engage in business without being monitored? 

In the Road to Serfdom, F. A. Hayek warns us of the danger of tyranny that comes in the abandonment of freedom when the government tries to centrally plan a state. Thanks to these proposals we are further down that road than we thought.

Dominique Lazanski spent over 10 years in the Internet industry in Silicon Valley and works for the Tax Payers' Alliance in the United Kingdom. She tweets at @dml

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