UK MPs Vote in Favor of Data Law Despite Fierce Criticisms

MPs in the UK have voted through the controversial emergency data retention law, amid waves of criticism, that will see telecoms continue to collect vast amounts of data on customers, which could be viewed by the government.


Photo: UK Department of International Development

David Cameron said the legislation will allow telecoms to cooperate in providing data on UK customers in specific national security and criminal investigations regardless of whether the company is based in the UK or not.

Edward Snowden says the emergency legislation is very similar to the NSA and US’ Protect America Act and “defies belief”. He added that you usually see laws like this when we’re “in a time of total war”.

“I mean we don’t have bombs falling. We don’t have U-boats in the harbor,” he said.

“Is it really going to be so costly to take a few days to say where the lines should be drawn about these authorities and what really serves the public interest?”

The new data retention law has been introduced to replace previous laws, which are expiring in the coming years and had been declared unlawful by the European Court of Justice.

Snowden also said on the UK government: “new authorities immediately without any debate, just taking their word for it, despite the fact that these exact same authorities were just declared unlawful by the European court of justice”.

He is not the only person to strongly criticize the UK government’s new law. Fellow MPs have mostly been critical of the quick timeline for introducing the law. Opposition MPs like Labour’s Yvette Cooper said “This is not the way that this kind of legislation should be done”, but said it was still necessary.

“Let’s be clear, the last-minute nature of it does undermine trust in the government’s intentions but also in the vital work the police and agencies need to do.

“But I also have no doubt this legislation is needed and that we cannot delay it until the autumn.”

The government’s Home Secretary said that the bill “preserves the status quo”. “It does not extend or create any new powers, rights to access or obligations on communications companies that go beyond those that already exist,” she said.

The new legislation flies in the face of privacy advocates and public opinion. A YouGov poll published a few days ago said that 47 percent of people think that security services has access to “almost everything about us”, a rise of eight percent.

Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group, who are regular critics of government security and privacy policies, has said that there is no emergency to address. “In any case, rushing through legislation that is extremely controversial should never be done in a day,” he wrote. “There is undoubtedly time for a discussion.”