Parliament must resist any attempts by the coalition government to circumvent EU safeguards on the collection of personal data by internet and telephone companies.
The PM David Cameron yesterday announced that new measures would be rushed through Parliament in the coming days that would continue to compel phone and internet service providers to store the communications data of individuals – location and traffic data about phone calls, texts, emails and internet use – in line with powers introduced across Europe in the wake of the 7 July 2005 bombings.
Those powers were overturned by ruling by the European Court of Justice earlier this year which found the blanket collection and retention of personal information to be a severe invasion of privacy.
European judges set out 10 principles that any new legislation needed to include to comply with human rights law. These included restricting data retention to that connected to a threat to public security covering a particular time period, location or specific suspects, and limiting retention periods to what was “strictly necessary”.
The government says it fears that complying with the ruling would hamper its ability to combat serious crime. However IHRC believes that any monitoring or surveillance should be intelligence-driven and not place the whole population under scrutiny. It is a principle of a free society that only those people who are legitimately under suspicion should be placed under observation.
IHRC is particularly concerned that the new powers will be employed to further target the Muslim community, whose members have unjustifiably found themselves on the receiving end of an ever expanding range of snooping laws.
We call on Parliament to exercise its duty to protect the freedoms of all citizens whilst ensuring their security. The issue is too important to be rushed through Parliament and it is of utmost importance that the proposals undergo thorough scrutiny and discussion by stakeholders as well as MPs and Lords.
IHRC chair Massoud Shadjareh said: “During the bad old days of the Soviet Union the UK was at the forefront of criticising it for intercepting and collecting of communications data of ordinary people. It is ironic that the powers the British government currently has at its disposal are far and above anything the authoritarian Soviet leaders could have dreamed of.”
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IHRC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
Islamic Human Rights Commission
PO Box 598
Telephone (+44) 20 8904 4222