LCHR statement on emergency data retention law

We are concerned about the plans to introduce emergency legislation governing collection of personal communications data.

The proposed legislation will force phone and internet companies to retain data about who we call and send messages to, in addition to when and where from. This data will then be used by the government for surveillance. The data gathering is indiscriminate, meaning millions of innocent people can be spied on.

There are many questions about data surveillance that need to be addressed through proper parliamentary scrutiny and public debate.

Can we trust the security services not to misuse these powers? There is a long history in Britain of intelligence agencies and police conducting inappropriate surveillance and clandestine operations, including spying on benign activism groups, the union movement, and even people like Doreen Lawrence.

Do these powers go too far in undermining privacy? A recent poll showed 88 percent of the public think it’s important to maintain the privacy of their phone records. And yet this bill would allow mass collection of these same records.

Will these powers even be effective? The Quilliam Foundation, an anti-extremism think thank, says mass surveillance will backfire, further fuelling terrorism.

We need time to address these questions. MPs need time to understand and scrutinise what is being proposed. If this is simply rushed through, the public will suspect an establishment “stich-up”, which will in turn undermine confidence in the security services. LCHR would like to see the passage of this bill delayed to allow time for a proper debate.

This is an important issue for Labour. We must show people that today’s Labour Party can be trusted to responsibly balance privacy and security. That’s why we need more time to look at these proposals.

Please send an email to your MP asking them to ensure there is a proper debate. You can use the sample text below. You can find out who your MP is here. If you click on their name you will be taken to a page with their e-mail address.

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Dear

I am writing because I am concerned about the announcement that emergency legislation regarding the collection of personal communications data will be rushed through Parliament.

The legislation will force phone and internet companies to retain data about who we call and send messages to, in addition to when and where from. The data collection will be indiscriminate and it will then be used by the government for surveillance.

I believe you and other MPs must have the time you need to consider this intricate issue. It is not possible for MPs to scrutinise and debate this legislation over the course of a few days.

I am writing to ask you to press for this bill to be delayed so that it can be fully understood and debated, and so the public can be confident that new powers are justified.

Yours sincerely,