94% do not want Data Communications Bill

Only 6% of UK citizens think the government has made a clear and compelling argument for the Draft Data Communications Bill, a survey has revealed.

In contrast, 71% of more than 1,800 adults polled said they do not trust that the data will be kept secure, according to the survey commissioned by privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch.

The draft legislation, aimed at making it easier for authorities to spy on electronic communications, requires internet and other service providers to retain records of all communications for 12 months, including emails, web phone calls and use of social media.

The government claims the proposals will cost £1.8bn over 10 years from 2012, a figure questioned by experts and those familiar with government IT projects.

Half of those polled online by YouGov said the proposed legislation is bad value for money, with just 12% saying it represents good value.

Fragile trust in the internet could break

With online services critical to economic growth and public service reform, the research also found that the bill could undermine internet use, with 41% of online respondents saying they would be less likely to use websites and online services if the proposed legislation is passed.

“The public have seen through the scaremongering rhetoric and see the snoopers’ charter for the waste of money that it is,” said Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch.

Instead of spending £2bn on another dodgy IT project, the Home Office should be making sure there are enough police officers with the right skills and equipment to investigate online crime, he said.

“While the real criminals take simple steps to hide their activity, the law would require every single person’s emails and messages to be monitored, and the public are right to be concerned that the data won’t be kept secure,” said Pickles.

Big Brother Watch believes the draft Communications Data Bill will hurt growth in the digital economy, undermine British foreign policy, create huge security risks and treat all citizens as suspects.

“The message from the public, technical experts and communications companies is clear: the only place this bill belongs is the bin,” said Pickles.

Data privacy a big concern

The survey comes as home secretary Theresa May is scheduled to give evidence to a special select committee of MPs and peers hearing pre-legislative evidence on the proposed bill.

Since the draft bill was published in May, the home secretary has insisted that the changes are needed to protect citizens from terrorists and paedophiles.

But in testimony to the Parliamentary committee hearing evidence on the bill in mid-October, information commissioner Christopher Graham said the proposed legislation would catch only incompetent criminals and accidental anarchists, but would have little effect on terrorism and serious organised crime.

A week earlier, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said the Draft Data Communications Bill would constitute a security risk. Wales told the RSA Conference Europe 2012 the proposed bill would be useless and quite dangerous if enacted.

“It will force many relatively small companies to hang on to data that they would not otherwise retain, which puts the data at risk,” he said.

In September, Wales raised these and other concerns before the parliamentary select committee.