The Global Network Initiative welcomes the report of the UK Joint Committee on the Draft Communications Data Bill and the Prime Minister’s commitment to rewrite the legislation. “The UK government has an important responsibility to protect the public, but the proposed bill does not strike the right balance with privacy rights,” says GNI Executive Director Susan Morgan. “The report of the Scrutiny Committee, which reflects evidence submitted by a wide range of experts, points the way to a thorough reconsideration of how the government should approach this issue.”
The Joint Committee appointed by the House of Commons and the House of Lords has been examining the draft bill, which proposes to update UK legislation that details the conditions under which law enforcement agencies access communications data. The report concludes that “the current draft Bill is too sweeping, and goes further than it need or should,” and that more consultation is necessary before redrafted legislation is introduced.
“The UK government has an opportunity to develop an approach that would serve as a model for the rest of the world, but the draft bill does not succeed in this respect,” says Morgan. “The government should consider the wider international context and narrow the focus of the legislation as it rethinks its approach.”
In evidence submitted to the Committee, GNI identified specific concerns regarding how the Bill would broaden the collection and retention of new data on anyone in the UK using communications services, and its troublesome assertions of jurisdiction over non-UK based communications services. GNI is also particularly concerned with the possible unintended consequences of the legislation that could undermine the UK’s ability to support and further freedom of expression and privacy rights internationally. It is not in the broader interests of the UK to initiate legislation that could give authoritarian regimes justification for their approach to communications data.