Whilst the race for the Prime Ministership is in essence a two-man battle between David Cameron and Ed Miliband, there promises to be a wider representation in Parliament than ever before. The Greens, the Liberal Democrats, the anti-European UKIP and Scottish and Welsh national parties the SNP and Plaid Cymru were all invited to the televised debates for the first time ever. The choice for UK voters has never been more varied.
But if you value your online privacy, which party should you vote for? Let’s take a look at each party’s current position on web security, where discernable.
The Conservative Party
The party’s manifesto states that they intend to:
Restore police and agencies’ access to the communications data they need to fight terrorism and organised crime.
In effect, this means that if the Conservatives win a majority in this election, the UK’s Security Services will be given the powers to read all messages sent over the internet. Such legislation, dubbed the “Snooper’s Charter”, has been blocked by the Liberal Democrats up to now, but that won’t be possible with a Conservative majority.
A direct quote from Cameron:
What matters is that we can access this communications data whether people are using fixed phones, mobile phones or more modern ways of communicating via the internet.
The Labour Party:
While not being quite as effusive about the matter as the Liberal Democrats, the Labour Party have opposed Cameron’s attempts to control all communications.
A direct quote from Labour leader Ed Miliband:
We have got to look at both areas. We have got to look at: do our intelligence services have the tools they need? But equally, do we have the proper oversight to guarantee the liberties of free citizens? After all, one of the things we want to protect most of all here is our freedoms. So we should defend our freedoms also making sure that the security services have what is necessary to counter that threat and defend that freedom.
The Liberal Democrats
Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems have been the ones standing in the way of the implementation of the Snooper’s Charter, more formally known as the Draft Communications Data Bill. The legislation would have also required every internet firm to track and keep logs of users’ web history for 12 months.
The Liberal Democrat MP stated that Cameron’s intentions would be “catastrophic” for UK businesses. A direct quote:
We need to make sure we don’t do anything daft that drives the rest of the world away, which is why the prime minister’s desire to have backdoors in technology would absolutely slam doors around the world to a huge amount of exports.
The Green Party
While the Green Party hasn’t been involved in the debate surrounding the Draft Communications Data Bill, back in 2013 the Greens MEP described existing EU data retention rules as a serious breach of the privacy of British citizens. A direct quote:
Greens believe that EU data protection legislation should be based on the principles of government openness and transparency while protecting citizens’ right to privacy. The existing directive on Data Retention, which Greens opposed when it was adopted, takes exactly the opposite approach.
Scottish National Party
Last year, the SNP Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill expressed disappointment at the government’s attempts to fast-track a data retention bill and claimed that such legislation infringed on the rights of Scottish people:
In an independent Scotland, this Government [would] set out clear arrangements for investigatory powers, updating existing legislation where necessary. This will ensure that law enforcement agencies have the powers that they need to do their job and keep Scotland safe, while also clarifying the limit of those powers and the extent of the controls over them.
Whilst the Welsh national party have not made online privacy one of their key concerns, Plaid Cymru (former) MP last year “voted against requiring the mass retention of information about communications, (but not the content of those communications); against arrangements to limit access to such information; against requiring those based outside of the UK to comply with warrants to intercept the content of communications and against stating operators of internet-based services may be required enact such intercepts; and also against limiting the use of intercepts, and police access to communications data, on economic grounds to cases involving the interests of national security.”
The UK Independence Party have made no statements regarding the Draft Communications Data Bill or any online privacy matter.
There seems to be a clear division between those dedicated to accessing communications on all levels (the Conservatives) those opposed to this (Labour, Lib Dems, Greens, SNP and Plaid Cymru) and those that seemingly have no opinion, but tend towards more conservative policies as a general rule (UKIP).
On May 7th, vote for a party that protects your privacy. In the mean time, protect yourself with SurfEasy; get started at surfeasy.com/register.
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