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Proposed UK Communications Law Could Be Used To Spy On Physical Mail 125

Posted by timothy
from the old-bailey's-long-planned-demolition dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The BBC reports that the UK's Draft Communications Bill includes a provision which could be used to force the Royal Mail and other mail carriers to retain data on all physical mail passing through their networks. The law could be used to force carriers to maintain a database of any data written on the outside of an envelope or package which could be accessed by government bodies at will. Such data could include sender, recipient and type of mail (and, consequentially, the entire contents of a postcard). It would provide a physical analog of the recently proposed internet surveillance laws. The Home Office claims that it has no current plans to enforce the law."
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Proposed UK Communications Law Could Be Used To Spy On Physical Mail

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  • by newcastlejon (1483695) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @04:18PM (#40353797)
    I haven't seen the figures for the CCTV per capita but it wouldn't surprise me if Britain was among the highest, DM scaremongering notwithstanding.

    they are happily extraditing any of their fellas to any country claiming IP infringement

    That's news to me. Scary if true.

    In a country with a lot of parliamentary direct democracy (they vote individual people, not party lists, and the one with most votes wins)

    I'm guessing you aren't a Briton, because people do tend to vote for parties. Hell, I'd be surprised if more than one in ten voters could actually name their MP a week after the election; the only reason I can (it's Chi Onwurah, by the way) is that I read Hansard a lot. When I last checked there were less than a dozen independent MPs. Britain has representative democracy, not direct democracy.

  • by dryriver (1010635) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @04:30PM (#40353859)
    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is INTERNATIONAL LAW, and which the UK is a signatory of, states it crystal clear in Article 12: "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or CORRESPONDENCE, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks." ---------- URL here for those who want to check the validity of this claim: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#a12 [un.org] ------ So UK Home Office, how the hell are you going to explain to the UNITED NATIONS that your little mail-snooping project violates ARTICLE 12 of the UDHR? -------- If you were going to pull shit like this, why did your government sign and rattify the UDHR to begin with? Why can't you just leave your citizens alone, like other civilized countries. And, finally, have you learned nothing from George Orwell's '1984'? It was published back in 1949, so you have had OVER 60 YEARS to learn something from that brilliant, brilliant piece of work, which was written by someone who was your countryman no less, who was British. ------ I give up. The more I look at the UK from a privacy perspective, the more I feel that that particular country has really gone down the drain, and perhaps irreversibly so.
  • by dryriver (1010635) on Sunday June 17, 2012 @05:05PM (#40354117)
    This is what Wikipedia has on the subject: "While not a treaty itself, the Declaration was explicitly adopted for the purpose of defining the meaning of the words "fundamental freedoms" and "human rights" appearing in the United Nations Charter, which is binding on all member states. For this reason the Universal Declaration is a fundamental constitutive document of the United Nations. Many international lawyers, in addition, believe that the Declaration forms part of customary international law and is a powerful tool in applying diplomatic and moral pressure to governments that violate any of its articles. The 1968 United Nations International Conference on Human Rights advised that it "constitutes an obligation for the members of the international community" to all persons. The declaration has served as the foundation for two binding UN human rights covenants, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the principles of the Declaration are elaborated in international treaties such as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the International Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the United Nations Convention Against Torture and many more. The Declaration continues to be widely cited by governments, academics, advocates and constitutional courts and individual human beings who appeal to its principles for the protection of their recognised human rights."
  • by Kijori (897770) <ward...jake@@@gmail...com> on Sunday June 17, 2012 @05:09PM (#40354167)

    It is enabling legislation - a statute that allows particular laws to be passed by secondary legislation (also called a statutory instrument - basically legislation that is 'passed' by a minister or a committee of ministers rather than the entire Parliament). It may sound undemocratic but it's inevitable - Parliament could not possibly scrutinise and pass enough legislation to deal with the pace at which the world changes. The power has to be devolved somewhere, and devolving it to Ministers at least has the advantage that someone visible is accountable for it, which means that the power is generally used sensibly and sparingly.

    In this case the power, to my mind, seems more extensive than is appropriate for secondary legislation - I'm not defending it, just explaining why it is being done the way it is. There is some comfort in the fact that the Bill is still in the very early stages of the process and extensive secondary powers are the sort of thing that are often removed or curtailed during the debates.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 17, 2012 @06:18PM (#40354709)

    It used to be the Liberal Democrats, then they finally got some power and decided that civil liberties weren't so desirable once they were in the government.

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