The Liberal Democrats have made a manifesto pledge to “roll back state surveillance powers” which have been passed into law by the Government’s Investigatory Powers Act.
Speaking to Sky News, the Liberal Democrat’s spokesperson on surveillance legislation said it was the party’s position that “as a general principle, the bulk collection of everyone’s data should not be allowed”.
While the party’s response to Brexit remains at the heart of the manifesto, additional policies include legalising cannabis and opposing state surveillance.
Brian Paddick, a Liberal Democrat peer and former deputy assistant commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, challenged the expense and usefulness of the Government requiring internet service providers to store users’ web browsing histories for 12 months.
He told Sky News that he had spoken to both GCHQ and the Secret Intelligence Service and both security agencies had informed him that that they did not require the power.
A similar scheme was abandoned in Denmark, he noted, due to the cost of such a system outweighing the benefits it would provide.
Baron Paddick believed the set-up cost in the UK would be £1.2bn.
It could also be unlawful depending on the ruling of a British Appeals Court later this year following on from a legal challenge brought against the Government by Labour’s Tom Watson and the then-Conservative backbencher David Davis.
“There is a serious question as to whether indiscriminate collection of personal data is legal or not,” Baron Paddick said.
“The way forward is targeted surveillance on those who are suspected of serious crime or terrorism,” he continued, not the indiscriminate collection of Britons’ communications.
The Liberal Democrats also pledged to notify innocent people who have been placed under targeted surveillance
where this can be done without jeopardising ongoing investigations, which is not currently provided for in law.
Following the loss of a hacking tool by GCHQ’s partner agency in the US, the NSA, which was subsequently weaponised by criminals to launch a major cyberattack on Friday, the party is set to question the use of hacking powers by state actors.
It added that it would “oppose Conservative attempts to undermine encryption“, which have drawn the Government much criticism from security professionals and academics.