Reply to Glenda Jackson MP re the DRIP bill

(Glenda Jackson’s email – from Labour central – here.)

I’m afraid I can’t believe the 95% statistic without further information explaining how it was calculated. This is one illustration of why debate is essential and DRIP should be slowed down. The evidence in the documents states only that communications data “was used” in 95% of “serious” cases. But how essential was it? Which cases? Another misleading section of the evidence notes that 121 “arrests or convictions” were possible. I couldn’t find a recent number for the convictions, but around 2012 it was closer to 30. Arrest does not imply guilt. Nor does conviction imply that blanket collection of communications data led to that conviction.

Do the examples provided justify bulk collection of everyone’s geolocation data? Think what this means. Databases stored in telecoms companies across the country detailing moment-by-moment movements of the entire mobile-phone owning population. Organised criminals will easily overcome this by leaving mobiles at home. Email meta-data can easily be hidden by using internet relays like Tor and free webmail accounts. This mass collection of data will mostly affect innocent people.

There are many ways communications data could be misused by people ranging from telecoms employees, hackers, nearly 600 public bodies – 600! – through to shadowy people in the intelligence services. Let’s not forget what the latter have been up to, e.g., Snowden’s allegations of GCHQ’s mass collection of webcam images. All in the name of protecting national security and economic well being? Councils have even been caught spying on parents to check claims of where they live.

Mass data collection and storage in telecoms companies and webmail providers across the country is just asking for trouble. There is no emergency. DRIP must be carefully dissected and debated, with advice from independent experts. Maintaining the status quo is also no excuse.

Please reconsider, speak to data security and civil liberties experts, and don’t be rushed into a decision.