The debate over the Investigatory Powers Bill has been rumbling on for some time. The proposed law, which would legitimise bulk internet data collection by the government on what we do on the internet has long horrified digital rights activists – and now the bill has received arguably its highest profile criticism yet.
World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee called the plans for the so-called Snooper's Charter 'inappropriate'. Given how diplomatic and polite Berners Lee generally is on political matters, this is quite the smack-down.
Speaking to The Economist radio on the openness of the web, he said:
There are a huge number of fronts on which we have to battle. For example making sure that countries don’t introduce laws that decrease the power of the citizen... don’t pass inappropriate laws, as the UK government is trying to do at the moment, to give the government too much power to spy on citizens.
He then went on to urge the show's listeners to write to their MPs to express their opposition to the Bill.
The Open Rights Group, which has campaigned against the Bill from the beginning is understandably delighted by Sir Tim's intervention. Jim Killock, Executive Director of the group said:
When the inventor of the web, says that the IPBill is inappropriate, we hope that the Government will pay attention. Tim Berners-Lee is one in a long line of experts who have voiced concerns about the spying powers that the Bill will give the Government. We still have a chance to amend this legislation and make sure that the UK has a law that is fit for a democracy not a dictatorship.
The debate is expected to intensify once again in the next couple of weeks as the Bill goes back before parliament, with MPs expected to vote in the second reading - putting it about half way through its passage into law. Last time around, Labour and the SNP abstained over the proposals, though Labour has since demanded an "independent review" into the bulk data collection powers. So stay tuned for more, no doubt.