While the attention grabbing headlines of those who oppose or question clauses in the Draft Communication Bills are sensentionalist, a more measured review of the draft bill has been carried out by a Joint Committee featuring MPs and Peers from the three major parties.
"There were significant concerns about the draft bill, which is why I insisted that it be put before the Joint Committee.
This is a very difficult issue and I welcome the Committee's thoroughness.
Their report makes a number of serious criticisms – not least on scope; proportionality; cost; checks and balances; and the need for much wider consultation.
It is for those reasons that I believe the Coalition Government needs to have a fundamental rethink about this legislation.
We cannot proceed with this bill and we have to go back to the drawing board."Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg commenting on Joint Committee report
The bill as it stands is set to require the largest communication providers (accounting for around 95% of all subscriptions) to retain for 12 months details on who, where and when with regards to Internet communications, though not the what we talk about. Differentiating between the who and what we are talking about and only retaining the former is one of the reasons why a senior Lib Dem lawyer suggests that the cost over a ten year period may rise from £1.8 billion to £9.3 billion which boils down to around £4 a month for every broadband subscription, even the lower estimate works out at £1 per month.
"ISPA gave written and oral evidence to the committee and agrees with the findings of the inquiry that the lack of detail around scope, safeguards, cost and lack of consultation mean that the Draft Bill needs to be looked at again to address these fundamental concerns. In its current form the lack of detail means that the Draft Bill falls short of balancing law enforcement requirements with the impact on business and privacy of users."ISPA Secretary General, Nicholas Lansman
Those supporting the Draft Communications Bill often raise the issue of the rapid rate of change in communications technology as to why the bill needs to be so broad in its terms, but the Joint Committee disagrees calling for a narrowing of the range of data captured. There is a sense of an increasing awareness among the public that 1984 was less of a novel but more of a documentary that had its date set 30 years too early. Over time we see more people using techniques more akin to what one associates with stories about governments turning off the Internet or blocking great swathes of it. As things stand the Draft Communications Bill has the potential to push the level of tracking on our daily lives that widespread CCTV and number plate tracking to allow the state to monitor our lives while in our own homes.