Anti ‘Snooper’s Charter’ Petition Gets Over 155,000 Signatures

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe’s Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

People are getting behind petitions against the Communications Data Bill

The public is rallying against the so-called “snooper’s charter”: a petition against the draft Communications Data Bill bill has gained over 155,000 signatures, whilst thousands of others have expressed their anger at the proposals.

Campaign group 38 Degrees is calling on people to sign the petition against the Bill which would require Interet providers to keep records of what sites people visit and who they communicate with, and routinely pass them for government investigation.

The 38 Degrees petition has support from notable celebrities, including IT Crowd and Father Ted writer Graham Linehan, and the group hopes to reach 175,000 names.

Battered civil liberties

“Our civil liberties have taken a battering in recent years from politicians of all backgrounds. Now it’s time to for us to push back,” a blog post from 38 Degrees read. “If hundreds of thousands of us demand that politicians protect our freedoms instead of grabbing more power, they’ll see the tide is turning. It’s time to tear up the Big Brother plans.

“If enough of us work together, we can get these plans scrapped. We can build a huge movement to stand up for our freedom and our right to privacy as law-abiding British citizens.”

People power

Other petitions have been created, but have not gained as much support as 38 Degrees has, if the numbers are to be believed. At the time of publication, that petition had received 156,174 signatures. The Open Rights Group has also set up a petition, which so far has the backing of 14,701 people, whilst one on the website has 10,295 behind it.

The calls have been gathering pace since the draft Communications Data Bill was announced in the Queen’s Speech this week. Under the original plans, black boxes would be installed at ISPs, where the government hopes communications data, covering what websites people are visiting and who they are interacting with, will be separated from the content of those communications. That information would then be passed on to GCHQ for its investigations. It covers the entire UK population, not just suspects of criminal investigations.

People power appears to have already made an impact on government officials, however. A source from within government exclusively revealed that the Home Office was “massively retreating”  from the idea of black boxes. Instead the government is simply looking to make it clearer what it expects from communications providers when asked.

38 Degrees has previously claimed victory against the government. In early 2011, it believed its petition, signed by around 500,000 people, was a big part of preventing the Coalition from selling off England’s forests to private companies.

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