Thank you for taking my views seriously. I felt I really had to say something about this, because without freedom of speech, the slave trade would not have been abolished in this country, the abuses of the church (including child abuse and witchhunting - read "terrorism") would have continued unchecked, and we would still believe that the earth is flat!
You are correct that child abuse, drug dealing and terrorism are serious offences and should of course be addressed to protect the innocent where required. My only disagreement with your letter is that I believe that court orders should be a mandatory requirement before reading and recording people's electronic communication.
Otherwise any legislation is prone to the same abuse that similar legislation was in Australia, where a internet censorship list was introduced ostensibly to prevent child pornography without court orders, then progressively degenerated into censoring things that should not have been. It was only when this secret list was leaked to the general public, that the extent that the Australian Government had abused these powers became apparent.
There is no need to reply, I appreciate how busy you are :)
Reply from Chris Skidmore MP for Kingswood, Bristol:
REF: INTERNET FREEDOMS
Thank you for your recent email, dated 11 January, regarding internet freedoms. I do appreciate you taking the time to get in touch and pass on your concerns.
The Government believes Communications data is vital for the police in their fight against crime, including serious offences such as child abuse, drug dealing and terrorism. It is therefore imperative that we get the balance right between upholding civil liberties and the right to privacy and protecting the public by maintaining the ability of the intelligence and law enforcement agencies to access vital communications data in an ever more dangerous world. At present, 25 per cent of communications data required by the police and agencies can no longer be acquired because the relevent data is not available at the necessary quality and timeliness.
I would like to make it clear that the Government has no intention to provide the police and others with new powers to intercept and read emails. There are no powers to share this information and indeed there are serious sanctions for abusing access to personal data. What it does allow is the police and intelligence services to access this contextual information on the internet in the same way as they can currently access it via telephone records. I am pleased to hear that, under no circumstances will these proposals authorise the interception and storage of the content of a communication.
I hope that this information is of some use. As ever, if there is anything else I can help you with please do not hesitate to get in touch.
with all best wishes,
Chris Skidmore MP Kingswood
I know I have emailed you several times about this and related issues surrounding the issues of internet freedoms which seem to be under very aggressive attack via groups lobbying particularly from across the Atlantic.
I am regularly getting emails from the Open Rights Group, because thousands of people have written to their MPs about SOPA, Snoopers Charter etc and they have been receiving letters from their MPs not really listening to their concerns. What's been happening is people have been getting automatically generated letters back from MPs (including yourself) with explanations saying the government would never abuse it's power, has not intention of, and that further policing and snooping of the internet is required. But don't worry everything will be ok.
Well the thing is, I don't want ANY additional policing of the internet or wiretapping of my email correspondence. If I did this to another person in society I would be charged with hacking. It isn't right that when governments wiretap people it's ok and when people like Julian Assange expose government corruption, they are locked up in an Ecuadorian embassy on fictitious charges of rape.
I as a voter, want no further internet legislation that in any way could add to further policing, censorship, removal of freedoms, limitation of usage, invasion of privacy in any way shape or form. Additionally, I do not know of a single person with any technical competence in IT who wants to see any laws pushed through. The issue is here that people are innocent until they commit a crime. It's not reasonable to start arresting people for comments that they make on the internet, or things that they are joking about doing. As soon as a crime is committed, then do feel free to arrest people, but arresting people for crimes they haven't committed yet is is a very disturbing development.
Things that I would like to see change about the internet:
-> Nobody should ever be penalised for software piracy
-> Nobody should ever have their internet connection monitored without a court order
-> Nobody should ever be penalised for something they say on the internet no matter how offensive
-> Internet websites should never ever be censored without a court order
-> No penalties should be made against any individual who speaks out about anything political
-> 3rd party companies like google and hotmail and ISPs should not be made to police the internet
These 6 violations seem to be occurring on a daily basis, I (and many others) find every one of them extremely offensive, and these things should be changed through law by popular demand. There seems to repeated and determined efforts to keep forcing laws through which violate freedoms more and more. People are realising that on these issues the government really does not care in any way what the people want, and that their democratic wishes are being bulldozered over by the wishes of a very small number of lobbyists, some of whom don't even live in this country!
If necessary there should be referendum on all of these 6 issues, to make sure that companies do not lobby governments to remove freedom of expression in the UK, and that people are fully aware of just how dangerous these laws would be if pushed through.