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Snoopers' Charter: a threat to journalists that must be stopped

23 April 2013

The UK government is planning to include its Communications Data Bill, otherwise known as the Snoopers' Charter, in the Queen's Speech. This will pose a great threat to journalists and their sources.

The bill would allow the government to order internet companies such Facebook, BT,t Virgin Media and Sky to collect and store the communications data relating to all of the traffic with which they deal. This would include details of internet usage, including websites visited, internet searches, private social media messages and even the online video games played.

However, an intervention from Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Ministers, appeared to put a block on the bill in its present form.

Law enforcement agencies will, the draft bill says, be able to trawl that data and cross-reference it with other data sources through a communications data search engine, revealing social connections and confidential communication between journalists and their sources. The NUJ's code of conduct says a member must protect the identity of sources who supply information and materials in confidence.

In a letter to the Times this week, academics and cyber-security experts urged the Prime Minister to drop the bill, saying it will "undermine the privacy of citizens". This is a very dangerous bill and the Home Office appears to be intent on going ahead without having fully consulted on measures that will have a detrimental effect on journalism and civil liberties.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"The draft bill is a major assault on civil liberties for all citizens and a threat to press freedom. For journalists, it would be a direct attack on the way they work and would severely undermine their ability to protect their sources, materials and whistleblowers. It must be dropped."

Write to your MP now and tell them we want these snooping plans abandoned.

See the Open Rights Group report - Digital Surveillance: Why the Snoopers' Charter is the wrong approach.

Tags: , snoopers' charter, new media, communications data bill, surveillance, websites, social media, online, government uk, open rights group, bt, virgin media, bskyb, protection of sources, whistleblowers