If passed, Communication Data Bill would allow ISPs in the UK to track users’ online activities and store their communications for at least 12 months. The government would be able to see when the message is sent and to whom, while the actual content would be visible only with a warrant. The primary intention of the proposal is to help fighting organized crime because their communications are increasingly being carried out through online channels. Home Secretary Theresa May argues that such methods of surveillance are highly necessary so the law enforcement would have sources and tools to fight criminal organizations.
This proposal caused different reactions and the Bill has already got the name “Snooper’s Charter”. Civil rights movements have called attention to the fact that the Bill would essentially harm human rights and privacy.
Jimmy Wales supported civil rights organizations criticizing the charter. He announced that Wikipedia would start encrypting all their communications with UK if the Bill passes the parliament. This way the government will have the insight into which users communicate with the website but would not be able to see the pages they read. “We don’t do it today because there doesn’t seem to be a dramatic need for it or any dramatic threat to our customers, but it’s something that I think we would do, absolutely,” Wales explained for the Telegraph. He believes that the Bill would contradict human rights because it would harm the privacy of citizens who use the Internet lawfully.
The government claims that there are still 25% of communications that cannot be tracked and the Bill would be a solution to bridge this gap. However, the critics have already assumed that that the most dangerous criminal organizations would be equally capable of tricking the law back by encrypting their communications.
Implementation of the Bill over the span of ten years would cost £1.8 billion and its adoption could significantly affect behavior of Internet users in UK. Their communication is already controlled by RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) that allow police to have an insight into telephone and email records. It is left to see whether the government is really ready to sacrifice their citizens’ privacy to that extent.