I wrote today on ComputerWorldUK about the draft Communications Data Bill. As I explained at OggCamp (my slides are online) last weekend in Liverpool, it is yet another attempt by the Home Office to get the government of the day to legalise sweeping permanent surveillance powers that allow the automated aggregation of all the details of your online life. Well, all but the actual “payload” – the message bodies themselves in e-mail for example. But the other information surrounding your communications provides plenty of data to fill a “big data” tank and analyse heuristically to detect trends in who you communicate with, when, why, where from and how.
The legislation is modelled on (and absorbs) existing postal surveillance laws but to use those the police have to go to the sorting office and look at envelopes. The cost in time and effort to go there creates “friction” that means the power is not used all the time on all your mail. But CDB is “frictionless”, allowing automated gathering of all the meta-data of all your communications (not just e-mail) and making it available over the next 12 months for analysis.
CDB makes us all a suspect, all the time. Instead of being under surveillance when there is evidence of wrongdoing, you will be under surveillance by default, with a wide range of people able to “go fishing” for information to support accusations against you without your knowledge. No amount of “access controls” can make this sort of resource safe; once created, it can only grow in scope and use.
It’s now too late for you to offer the Joint Select Committee your input on the draft, but you can still join the Open Rights Group who are at the forefront of defending your digital rights in the UK.