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Time for Effective Digital Security, Privacy and Police Powers


The new Investigatory Powers Bill has been called the Snoopers Charter II - because it puts all of us at risk of serious fraud and ransom whilst giving police ineffective powers. 

So, what is this bill trying to do and why is it riddled with risk?

The Investigatory Powers Bill requires the creation of super large databases which store vast amounts of information about everyone - albeit top level metadata (if you trust such a system) - and provide access to that data to multiple agencies. 

So, big data, lots of people using it with complicated access rules; and, some of those people will inadvertently click 'invitations to update their bank details' malware links in their emails - yes, it does happen; or, leave their laptop, tablet or smartphone in the pub or restaurant.
 
Therefore, there are genuine concerns about both whether it is appropriate to collect and give access to this data but equally whether such data can be kept secure and away from the increasingly powerful cyber gangs, who are extremely well resourced and very powerful.
 
So what is the recent track record of central government in developing complex database systems and sensitive data?
 
From the ministry of justice we have a failing 'track my crime' software system which is cumbersome and inappropriate and risks removing the human contact with the police officer working to resolve the crime and support victims.
 
In February, the Ministry of Justice announced the failure of their centrally procured tagging software with a £21m loss.
 
And on Friday 11th March, we learned of serious system failures and procedural weakness leading to the incorrect deletion of suspects DNA.
 

What does this tell us about government tech?

 
Two things.
 
First, you can't solve a problem with technology unless you first understand that problem in the first place. Instead, we require 'coherent and comprehensible legislation'.
 
Secondly, Tories Don't Get Tech
 
The Tory Government's large scale 'big bang' system development approach, repeatedly fails.
 
Any digital entrepreneur knows that successful developments require 'agile' bottom up developments to solve process issues one by one through a lean tech approach. This is the tech world's version of that famous Liberal concept 'localism'.
And this bill is proposing to make all those same mistakes all over again with a database so big and so vast that it would dwarf any of their previous system failures.
 

But why is privacy so important?

 
Wrongful loss of privacy is experienced as a form of violation. That is why appropriate protection is essential.
 
However, in the digital world, loss of privacy is going beyond this harm. Safeguarding our digital privacy is now about our personal safety.
 
On my phone, you will not only discover much about me, but also where I live, all about my family, my movements and where you can find me and where you can find them. And its the same for your phone or tablet too.
 
This leaves us all at risk of ransom. Even with just top level metadata, a criminal could email me demanding money with a specific and reasonable threat simply based on that information. And, a criminal could do the same to you too - and to your family.
 
Gaining access to our digital data gives criminals the ability to hold each and everyone of us to ransom.
 
These cybercriminals must look at new, ever larger centralised databases with joy and excitement - new opportunities for mass ransom.
 
Yet, we must give our police and security forces powers to keep us safe too.
 
Therefore, if ever there was a time when we needed liberal minded oversight and leadership in the area of policing, privacy and security, it is now.
If ever there was a time to back and support your Liberal Democrat police and crime commissioners in the May election it is now.
If ever there was a bill worth defeating, it is this one.
 
The future of crime is frightening, however, together, with open minds and liberal attitudes, we can find a way to make it safe and provide police and security agencies with effective powers.

Please support us in fighting this bill which is riddled with risk. Come and join us and help us fight back.

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