Lib Dems call for encryption by default

The UK needs to enforce encryption by default to protect citizens' privacy, claim Liberal Democrat MPs

The UK needs to enforce encryption by default to protect citizens’ privacy, according to Liberal Democrat MPs.

Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert said it was essential to introduce encryption despite objections from the security services.

The idea is expected to feature in a draft Liberal Democrat Digital Bill of Rights, which is being drawn up before the next election.

Security versus privacy

The tension between national security and privacy needs to be clarified, said Huppert, speaking at an event in Parliament.

An over-abundance of collected information has reduced security agencies’ efficiency, he claimed. Suspicion-based targeting would sharpen their focus.

Progress to a bill of digital rights

The Liberal Democrat spring conference, held in York, voted overwhelmingly to support a Digital Bill of Rights that would prohibit the government from the bulk collection of citizens’ data. 

Just two Lib Dem MPs voted against the motion, which had been tabled by Julian Huppert. Martin Horwood MP, whose Cheltenham constituency includes GCHQ, was the only MP to speak against the proposed bulk collection ban.

Further plans for a Digital Bill of Rights were made public in September 2014, ahead of the party’s pre-election manifesto and within a week of hackers releasing hundreds of stolen photographs of naked celebrities.

"We could improve privacy and security simultaneously,” he said. “Legislation could help.”

His comments follow claims from former officials of the US National Security Agency (NSA) that bulk collection of data has been responsible for the intelligence services missing vital intelligence on terrorism attacks.  

Other proposals for the Digital Bill of Rights include legislation to make "revenge porn" a criminal offence. This would not mean a blanket ban on pornography, said Huppert: “We don’t want state censorship; that would clearly go too far. But we do need to protect people.”

The UK has a hit-and-miss approach to privacy protection, Huppert claimed.

“We take the James Bond view, rather than that of the Americans, who think of the McCarthy era, or the Germans, who had the Stasi,” he said.

The bill would legislate for broad principles, rather than technical details, according to Huppert. 

He cited the example of England’s iconic “Great Charter of Liberties” of 1215AD. “Most of Magna Carta has been repealed,” he said, “but the broader principles have remained.”

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