Snooping powers dropped in Lib Dem manifesto

As part of their general election manifesto pledges, the Liberal Democrats have promised to scrap the mass snooping powers, passed under November’s Investigatory Powers Act.

The Act provides intelligence agencies and police the widest set of surveillance powers in the western world, allowing them to collect and store 12 months’ worth of all UK residents’ web histories.

A recent draft document, leaked from the Home Office, showed government plans to force web companies to hand over anyone’s communications within 24 hours and to bring an end to encrypted messages. This would include encrypted content such as on messaging services like WhatsApp, meaning companies would be legally required to introduce a backdoor to their systems so the authorities can read all communications.

Responding in part to the leaked document, the Liberal Democrats describe the powers as a ‘full frontal assault’ on civil liberties and pledge to limit state surveillance powers by scrapping the powers by which the indiscriminate bulk collection of communications data and the collection of internet connection records are enabled.

Alistair Carmichael, who is standing for re-election in the seat of Orkney and Shetland for the Liberal Democrats, said: “The investigatory powers bill has laid the ground for a full frontal assault on our privacy and civil liberties. The security services need to be able to keep people safe, but these powers are straight out of an Orwellian nightmare. They have no place in an open and democratic society, will cost billions of taxpayers’ money and simply will not work.

“Instead of spying on the entire population’s web histories and undermining the encryption that, for example, allows us to bank online safely, Liberal Democrats would put money back into community policing and concentrate on intelligence-led, targeted surveillance. A Conservative landslide would give Theresa May a blank cheque to implement these draconian spying powers and Labour have shown they are incapable of opposing them. A strong Liberal Democrat opposition is crucial to challenge this government, stand up for people’s civil liberties and change Britain’s future.”

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