The Liberal Democrats want to introduce a digital bill of rights in the next parliament, to give people control over their own personal data and to criminalise corporate data theft.
As part of its campaign for the forthcoming general election, the Lib Dems have launched a consultation paper outlining 13 proposals aimed at enshrining digital rights into law, improving government transparency and protecting personal data.
The proposed bill would introduce prison sentences for large-scale data theft by companies, give greater powers to the Information Commissioner's Office, crack down on misleading website terms and conditions, and prevent the government from weakening encryption software to give security services access to encrypted data.
“The way in which we work, socialise, buy products and use services has changed at lightning speed since the digital revolution,” said Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.
“However, government and politicians have responded at a snail’s pace and failed to ensure the rights of consumers, businesses, journalists and children are protected in the online world. Our digital rights bill will finally enshrine into law our rights as citizens of this country to privacy, to stop information about us being abused online and to protect our right to freedom of speech.”
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The outcome of the consultation process would feed into any negotiations the party may enter into for forming a new coalition government after the election. The Lib Dems are seeking input from any interested parties in their ideas.
“As Liberal Democrats we believe in empowering citizens. Control of our personal data should be in our hands, not in the hands of big business or the government,” said the consultation document.
The proposals also offer support for net neutrality, online privacy, protection against intrusive surveillance and blanket collection of data, and encryption.
“Businesses must be able to protect their communications, their intellectual property and their customers’ data from intrusion; and individuals and families need to have confidence that their private information, photos and conversations are not vulnerable to hackers,” said the consultation document.
“Government has a responsibility to uphold and facilitate the strongest security standards online and should not seek to weaken encryption or obstruct the availability of encryption technologies.”
During the five years of coalition government, the Lib Dems opposed Conservative plans for a communications data bill to introduce greater snooping powers for the security services. The bill was eventually withdrawn after widespread criticism, despite subsequent attempts by Tory peers to introduce similar measures through the back door.