The Liberal Democrats have vowed to overhaul government internet surveillance and “safeguard the essential freedom of the internet” by introducing a Digital Bill of Rights, which will give citizens the right to control how their data is used.
The party will also continue to oppose the Communications Data Bill should it be in government following the May 7 general election. The Communications Data Bill, also known as the snooper’s charter, was pushed by the Conservative-led Coalition government.
The plans were set out in the Liberal Democrat manifesto, launched today by party leader Nick Clegg at an event in South London, which seeks to “secure liberty online” and ensure digital freedom.
“In the modern digital age, the power of the state and of corporate interests can threaten our privacy and liberty,” reads the document, which promises “a complete overhaul of surveillance powers in 2016”.
Noting how “surveillance is easier than ever before” – as demonstrated by the documents leaked by US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden – the Liberal Democrat manifesto states: “Privacy should always be the norm for personal data, meaning surveillance must always be justified and proportionate and any demand to read private encrypted communications must be targeted and proportionate.”
The Liberal Democrats said a Digital Bill of Rights will “enshrine the digital rights of the citizen”.
According to the manifesto, the Digital Bill of Rights will “enshrine the principle that everyone has the right to control their own personal data, and that everyone should be able to view, correct, and (where appropriate and proportionate) delete their personal data, wherever it is held”.
The Bill will also “forbid any public body from collecting, storing or processing personal data without statutory authority” and “give increased powers and resources for the Information Commissioner and introduce custodial sentences for egregious breaches of the Data Protection Act”.
The Liberal Democrats would also “safeguard the essential freedom of the internet and back net neutrality” as part of a commitment to an open internet.
Naturally, given past opposition to the act, the Liberal Democrats have stated they’ll continue to “oppose the introduction of the so-called snooper’s charter”, a policy that the Conservative Party has vowed to revive as part of its manifesto.
“We blocked the draft Communications Data Bill and would do so again,” the manifesto continues, adding that “requiring companies to store a record of everyone’s internet activities for a year, or to collect third-party communications data for non-business purposes, is disproportionate and unacceptable”.
The Liberal Democrats have also outlined future plans for technology infrastructure and the digital sector within the United Kingdom. The party has therefore pledged to “complete the rollout of high-speed broadband, to reach almost every household (99.9%) in the UK as well as small businesses in both rural and urban areas.”
The manifesto also states that the Liberal Democrats will “Build on the success of Tech City, Tech North and the Cambridge tech cluster with a network across the UK acting as incubators for technology companies,” and “retain coding on the National Curriculum.”
Digital reform in the public sector was a key issue for the coalition government and the Liberal Democrats have committed to continuing the strategy, promising to “maintain and develop the award-winning Government Digital Service, and the principle of Digital by Default in public services, pressing ahead with plans to extend this to local government.”
The Liberal Democrats have also committed to continuing government commitment to open data, with the manifesto promising that they’ll “continue to release government data sets that can facilitate economic growth in an open and accessible format, including on standards in public services.”
The launch of the Liberal Democrat manifesto comes after the Labour Party unveiled its manifesto on Monday, promising faster and more reliable broadband. Meanwhile, the Conservative Party has pledged to “direct resources” to “eight great technologies – among them robotics and nanotechnology”.
The election will be held on Thursday 7 May. Read the IT highlights of all the major parties’ manifestos: