Corbyn announces digital 'bill of rights'

The leader of the Labour party has announced his intention to draw up a digital bill of rights, installing a constitutional settlement for online privacy for UK citizens

The embattled Labour leader is currently in the middle of a heated leadership election (RevolutionBahrainMC via Wikimedia Commons)
The embattled Labour leader is currently in the middle of a heated leadership election (RevolutionBahrainMC via Wikimedia Commons)

Jeremy Corbyn intends to introduce a digital ‘bill of rights' in the UK.

The leader of the Labour party presented his intentions in Shoreditch as he unveiled the ‘digital democracy manifesto', setting out proposed guarantees for citizens in the online space.

The manifesto statement calls for a public consultation to draw up such a bill:

“This constitutional settlement will reaffirm the continued importance of long-held and hard-won individual and collective freedoms within the new information society. The human right of personal privacy should give legal protection for British citizens from not only unwarranted snooping on their online activities by the security services, but also unjustified surveillance by CCTV and other hi-tech methods within the workplace”.

The People's Charter of Digital Liberties, continues the statement, “will be the public statement of the political, civil and socio-economic principles for the networked version of British democracy.”

It's terms are admittedly vague but the statement does clearly echo concerns about infringements on the right to privacy that have been hurled against the current Prime Minister, Theresa May, who has been at the forefront of passing laws considered invasive by many.

Richard Tynan, chief technologist at Privacy International told SCMagazineUK.com that while it attempts to address the attacks on the right to privacy in the UK

“The manifesto attempts to address some of the unprecedented attacks on the right to privacy in the UK. However, it is extremely light on any details about how the mass surveillance apparatus can be dismantled or whether a future Labour Government would be even in favour of respecting the right to privacy in the digital age. For example, it is silent on whether hacking is permissible or indeed whether bulk collection of innocent people's data is acceptable. Without any further details it is difficult to assess what their position is and what direction they think is appropriate in the future.”

Brian Chappell director of technical services at BeyondTrust told SC that while it's an interesting idea it's still vague: “Enforcing data privacy is the only viable option for policing the internet without making it a service owned (pwned?) and run by the Governments of the world.”

Chappell added,“protection of our personal information held by organisations we access via the public internet (or intercepted by security services) is vital; those are the places we can point to and clearly define responsibility. Those are the places we can enforce controls, those are the people storing our information and those are the people who should treat our information as if it were their own.”

The statement also calls for ‘digital passports' which will be used for interaction with public services. Holders will be able to control who has access to that personal information although they will be encouraged to share that data in an anonymous form for a variety of purposes. The statement adds, “we will protect the human right of individual privacy with strict laws against the unauthorised hacking of Digital Citizen Passports by either public bodies or private individuals”.

Amit Ashbel, cyber-security evangelist at  Checkmarx questions whether the move is purely populism. The notion of a passport, Ashbel told SC, is instantly presented with the problem, “What would make this passport secure? Where will this data be stored and who is in charge of keeping the citizen's identifiable data. I for one would not trust any government organisation to safely store and protect my personal data.”


Graham Mann, managing director at Encode Group UK is slightly more optimistic about the prospect .“There are some very good ideas in this so called ‘Bill of Digital Rights' but it's also very naïve, particularly when it comes to security. I'm sure there are many cyber-hackers licking their lips at the thought of this becoming law. The “digital passport” concept, depending on how it's implemented, could backfire from a security perspective.”

“A single access point to an individual's personal data rings alarm bells. It's unclear exactly how this would work but community software or ‘Democratic Programming, as it's referred to, sounds attractive but is open to abuse and is unlikely to have been developed using secure coding techniques.”

Corbyn's proposition also contains provisions for providing guaranteed and universal access to broadband. The Corbyn leadership campaign did not respond as to what the ‘bill of rights' will contain, nor what prompted it.

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