It’s five months since The Guardian first reported on just how invasive the British intelligence agencies’ internet and phone surveillance is. Politicians across Europe and America have been debating this ever since. But in the UK, our MPs have been mostly silent.
This Thursday, MPs have the chance to hold a substantial debate about the intelligence and security service, for the first time since Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing hit the headlines. But for the debate to be really hard-hitting, and genuinely useful, lots of MPs need to turn up.
If you email and ask them to attend they’re much more likely to be there. Can you take two minutes to email your MP and ask them to attend the debate? Please click here.
Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert, Conservative MP Dominic Raab, and Labour’s Tom Watson MP have secured the debate to raise concerns about the need to make sure surveillance in this country is necessary, proportionate and accountable.
But there’s a real risk that not many MPs will turn up. If enough of us get in touch with our MPs now and ask them to attend the debate, together we can prove that British citizens care about their civil liberties and privacy.
“If MPs know that enough of their constituents care about a debate like this, they’re usually much more likely to attend.”
Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge
When it was exposed that UK spy agencies have been intercepting our private phone calls and internet traffic – and sharing it with the USA’s security services – many people, including MPs and ministers, had no idea that UK surveillance was so wide reaching. But so far MPs haven’t had a chance to debate it.
Let’s make sure the debate is packed full of MPs to ensure that it has a big impact. Please email your MP here and ask them to join in the debate now.
Great news! We’ve stopped the government’s plan to spy on everyone’s internet use. Late yesterday Nick Clegg announced he will not allow the “snoopers’ charter” to go ahead.
38 Degrees members moved quickly when we first heard of the plan to collect details of who we call, text, email and which websites we visit. We voted to work together to stop these intrusive and expensive plans.
Together, over the past 18 months:
- nearly 200,000 of us signed the petition to stop government snooping
- from Dundee to Penzance, thousands of us met up locally to deliver our massive petition direct to MPs
- nearly 19,000 38 Degrees members raised their concerns directly to the parliamentary committee looking at the government’s plans
- and just last week thousands of us got back in touch with our MPs, calling on them to abandon the plans.
38 Degrees members were a key part of a team which also included great campaigning from Liberty, Privacy International and the Open Rights Group. We also got support and advice from a number of supportive MPs – particularly Lib Dem Julian Huppert, and Conservative David Davis. David Davis MP even came into the 38 Degrees office to do a live web briefing with 38 Degrees members!
When we started this campaign, we knew it would be hard. The government seemed determined – we’d need a big campaign to turn it around. So collectively we rolled our sleeves up and just kept going. Today we can celebrate a great win for people power!
Campaigns like this don’t cost the earth to run, but they aren’t free. 38 Degrees is 100% independent – so we’ll never take money from big business or government. Instead 38 Degrees relies entirely on donations from members like you, giving one-off donations or small regular sums of £2 or £3 per week.
With your help now, we can take things to a new level. Can you chip in £2 or £3 a week, to help us raise the vital resources needed to dramatically increase our impact over the year ahead (or whatever you can afford).
Click here to give a small amount to 38 Degrees each week via our secure website.
Please do consider chipping in if you can – it really is the only way wins like this are possible. But first of all, please make sure you take a moment to celebrate what we can accomplish when we all act together.
From Dundee to Penzance, more than 70 hand-ins took place all over the country! Here’s a map showing everywhere a government snooping petition hand-in took place…
Loads of 38 Degrees members found MPs ready to listen:
“We were treated politely and patiently on the day and sent a detailed 2 page letter a week or two later” Peter Struik, Sutton on Paul Burstow MP (Lib Dem)
“She was welcoming, engaged and seemed genuinely interested in our campaign. She invited us to keep sending her information that she was able to present to her colleagues at the parliament.” Afreen Huq, Bethnal Green on Rushnara Ali MP (Labour)
“We got listened to seriously…We had a 30 min discussion with John Randall MP, and a photo shoot on the balcony at Parliament. We all appreciated his advice regarding how to strengthen our campaign by asking technical experts to share their knowledge of the Bill’s deficiencies as they saw them.” Chris Clark Gold, Uxbridge on John Randall MP (Conservative)
Right now, an official committee of MPs is preparing a report that might put a stop to the government’s plans. If the report says the government’s plans are flawed, it could make it hard for the government to push ahead. It could be a major chance to push the government to bin the idea altogether!
Do you have any ideas about what we could do together next in the campaign to protect our privacy online? It’d be great if you could add any comments or suggestions below.
The 38 Degrees office received this brilliant email today! It’s from the Clerk of the Committee examining the government’s plans for a new snooping law.
A few weeks ago, nearly 19,000 38 Degrees members got in touch with the Committee to voice our concerns about the planned changes to UK privacy laws. And it’s clear they’ve listened.
The email states:
“It is not possible for the Committee staff to thank all those who have sent emails individually, but the Committee have been made well aware of the great preponderance of opposition to the draft Bill from members of the public.”
Together, we’ve made a big impression on the MPs and Lords who are on the Committee, as they come to a decision about what to put in their critical report to Parliament. The Committee has also written about our submissions on the Parliament website.
This is a big achievement, and a great step forward in our fight to protect our privacy. Now we have to wait and see what the Committee says about the government’s plans in the official report.
There could be a long way to go in this campaign. What do you think? Should we keep up the pressure? What could we do next together to make sure MPs know we don’t want these snooping plans to become law?
Rachel Robinson is Policy Officer for one of the UK’s leading civil liberties organisations Liberty. In this guest blog, she explains some of the major problems with the government’s plans for more snooping online – the Draft Comunications Data Bill.
Imagine how you’d feel if the police popped round your house tomorrow and installed a CCTV camera in your bedroom – just in case they might one day suspect you of committing a crime. Chances are you’d probably have something to say about it. This might sound pretty far-fetched, but in an internet age the government’s plans to record huge amounts of information about our online habits are not so far removed. For those of us who use the internet as an important way of communicating with friends, relatives or business associates, the government’s Draft Communications Data Bill will act like a window to our souls.
The Coalition has dusted off and revived its predecessor’s plans for a Snoopers’ Charter that’ll result in the mass collection and storage of the entire population’s “communications data”. That’s records of everyone’s e-mails, texts and phonecalls – even the websites we visit – all gathered and retained by private firms. Rather than addressing already problematic powers which allow mass surveillance, ministers are now going even further.
Thankfully the government has at least established a Joint Committee, made up of MPs and peers, to scrutinise the Draft Bill. The Committee has asked for written evidence, the deadline for which is today. Liberty and our members are fighting hard against the plans via our No Snoopers’ Charter campaign and we’ve sent over our submission stating exactly why we oppose the proposals.
In the drive to defend the Snoopers’ Charter against rising public opposition, a number of myths have emerged. For example there’s the classic “if you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear”. Why is it always about what we’ve got to hide? What about what we have to protect – personal privacy, perhaps? We’re also assured this isn’t about the actual “content” of communications. But you can still learn an awful lot about someone from their online habits – who they text and telephone, not to mention the websites they visit.
The government claims that nothing will really change, as some data is already stored. But these proposals are much graver. For the first time companies will be instructed to collect information on billions of communications – for no other reason than the authorities’ future demands for access. We’re also promised this is just about tackling criminals and thwarting terrorists. But the plans will allow data to be collected about everyone; not just suspects. With methods that evade the state’s reach readily available, it’s likely that serious criminals will avoid detection.
If the Draft Bill gets the green light, blunders and even abuse will surely follow – haven’t the privacy debacles of recent years taught us anything? It’s a truly chilling prospect, and flimsy crime prevention arguments can’t be allowed to usurp the privacy of innocent, law-abiding Britons. We’re a nation of citizens, not suspects – and that’s precisely how it should stay.
UPDATE: You can read Liberty’s submission to the consultation here.
What do you think of Rachel’s blog and the threat to our right to privacy? Please share your comments and thoughts below.
We’ve got just 48 hours to send thousands of messages to the committee of MPs with the power to derail the government’s snooping plan.
This is our big chance to influence the Committee’s report. The report could support the plans – or could say there are major problems, making it hard for the government to push ahead. The Committee is a Joint Committee set up to scrutinise the draft Communications Data Bill, chaired by Lord Blencathra. They’ve been interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence. The deadline for written submissions is Thursday 23 August.
Right now, there’s a risk that the report will focus mainly on the technical details. Four out of five of the overall questions asked by the Committee in their call for evidence are on technical aspects of the proposals. But to derail the government’s plans, we need the report to do more than this. It needs to focus instead on the major threats to our freedoms and right to privacy.
The Committee will want to do a thorough job examining the plans. If tens of thousands of us send them emails about why we value our right to privacy, we can make sure the report asks the big questions – and that could be enough to kill the snooping plan.
So far, 38 Degrees members have done an amazing job of standing up against the government’s snooping plans. Nearly 200,000 of us have signed the petition, and 70 MPs all round the country have had a copy of it hand-delivered by local 38 Degrees members.
Here’s what some 38 Degrees members have said so far about the campaign -
“Citizens should not be treated as criminals. We still live in a state where you are innocent until proven guilty. This type of surveillance casts a shadow over our freedom and makes us all look guilty before even being accused of a crime.” - Giuseppe
“Even such a suggestion of giving such powers over to any government suggests how deeply we have strayed from democracy and basic freedoms.” – Barbara
There are just 48 hours left to get our voices heard. Can you send a message to tell the Committee why privacy matters to you?
During the live briefing, David Davis MP told us that the single most effective thing we can to protect our privacy is arrange to meet with our MPs to talk to them about our concerns. He said, “Do not underestimate the extent to which your MP will pay attention… go and talk to your MP, and be persistent.”
Here’s David Davis MP’s top tips for 38 Degrees members talking to their MPs about the new plans for government snooping:
Talk to the MP in your own words, calmly and rationally. But be persistent – MPs like a good debate!
Tell your MP that this is a massive invasion of our privacy – the government would be able to access huge amounts of information about who we’ve contacted and when, without getting a proper warrant.
The government claims these plans are about stopping terrorists and paedophiles – but people who use the internet for criminal purposes will easily find ways round the law, for example by using pay-as-you-go phones, internet cafes and anonymous internet servers. Ordinary, law-abiding people will be those most affected by this invasion of our privacy.
The new plans would generate so much information to trawl through, that it would make it harder for security services to find terrorists, not easier.
In Germany and the Czech Republic similar legislation was found to break article 8 of the Human Rights Act and quickly overturned.
Once you’ve made an appointment, and entered the details into our database, the 38 Degrees office team will email other 38 Degrees members in your area to let them know it’s happening, as well as sending you out a copy of the petition and information to help you with your meeting.
You can find out more about organising a visit to your MP here and read about what happened when other members met their MPs to hand in the petition here.
Can you help to stop this invasion of our privacy by talking to your MP and delivering our petition to them? Click here to get started.
Our right to privacy is under threat. The government has confirmed it wants new powers to snoop on all of us whenever we use the internet. Soon they’ll start pushing the plans through Parliament.
We can stop these Big Brother plans – if enough MPs feel enough pressure to vote against them. So now’s the time to get clued up. We need to work out how to persuade every MP to vote to protect our privacy.
David Davis MP is a senior Conservative, a former shadow Home Secretary and a long-time supporter of civil liberties. He’s hugely opposed to the government’s plans. He’s agreed to hold an online question and answer session with 38 Degrees members. It’s a chance to hear more about the snooping plan and how we can stop it.
If we’re trying to persuade MPs, where better to get insider knowledge than direct from an MP? And David Davis isn’t just any MP – he’s a prominent Conservative and a former minister. He’s been on the receiving end of many 38 Degrees campaigns before. He’ll be able to tell us what works and how to best respond to government spin.
David Cameron claims his new plans to invade our privacy will make us safer. But really this is about Big Brother powers to spy on all of us, not just serious criminals. It’s the difference between treating all of us as citizens, and treating us as suspects.
38 Degrees members know better than anyone that the internet can be a force for good. It would be a disaster if the government got more powers to spy on it. So let’s come together on the internet next week and prepare to stand up for our privacy online.
So far over 1,000 of us have signed up to organise a petition hand-in – that’s amazing! Together, we can make sure that we get dates in MPs’ diaries all over the country, so that we can show them how strongly we feel about this threat to our freedom.
If you’ve signed up to organise an event, but haven’t confirmed a date with your MP yet, you can find their contact details here. Give them a call or send an email! Once you’ve confirmed a date, enter the details on the events page and the office team will let 38 Degrees members in your area know it’s happening and send you a hand-in pack.
If you haven’t signed up to organise a hand-in yet but you’d like to, sign up here. Here’s a step-by-step guide to organising a hand-in for more info.
After a hand-in, remember to send photos to firstname.lastname@example.org or post them up on the Facebook page. And let everyone know how it went – leave a comment below.
In Scunthorpe, Neil organised a petition hand-in to his MP, Nick Dakin. He says, “Our MP Nic Dakin was receptive to our petition and views on the proposed bill.”
Stuart organised Friday’s hand-in in Beverley, East Yorkshire. Here’s what he had to say about it:
“Organising the 38 degrees petition hand in was really easy, I just completed a few forms and emailed my MP and it was all setup, then all i needed to do was wait for 38 degrees to send me the hand in pack to my work address, it was all very simple and straight forward.
We met the other 38 degree members at a local pub close to the venue, everyone was friendly and we had a chat about a few of the issues 38 degrees have been involved in and what was going to happen when we met our MP. This was a great moment to get to meet like minded members and discuss further issues that we have been supporting!
We were concerned that the governments plans to increase Internet surveillance was too over the top, that the surveillance wasn’t needed, too expensive at a time of recession and that the tools could be exploited in the future. Especially as on the same day we handed in the petition an Ex MI5 chief had her laptop stolen at a UK airport.
Our MP (Graham Stuart) was really dismissive of the issue he claimed he hadn’t looked into the policy very closely (even though it was mentioned in the queens speech and it was his own party’s policy) and that it was down to him how he voted on the issue as we only represented a small portion of his constituency. We will see how he votes on the issue when it comes to passing the bill in Parliament. Ijust hope we managed to put our concerns across to him and that he will take it on board and do the right thing when the time comes to it. On the plus side he did say he wasn’t too keen on the “state” and had voted against party policy before on issues regarding detaining people without trail.
I would definitely recommend organising a hand-in to other 38 Degrees members I’m currently trying to get my mum to organise one in her area. It’s a great way to get your point across to the person who will be voting on the key issue. It was great to actually get up and do something for a change, it’s so easy to sit on the side lines why not get involved?”
The government is pushing ahead with its plans to invade our privacy online. New rules could completely change the way government collects and stores information about which websites we visit, and who we text and email. Tens of thousands of us have signed the petition to protect our privacy online. Now we need to start organising visits so we can tell our local MPs face-to-face how important our right to privacy is, and hand in the petition which so many of us have signed.
Here’s a quick step-by-step guide explaining how to do it:
1. Sign up with 38 Degrees to organise a visit to your MP
38 Degrees is a non-party political organisation, so if you represent a political party (for example, if you’re a local councillor, or hold a position within a local party group), please don’t sign up to host an event.
2. Arrange the MP visit (a few weeks in advance if possible)
Once you know where and when you are meeting your MP, you need to find a location nearby where you can meet up with other 38 Degrees members beforehand. A pub, a cafe, or community centre would be ideal. Make it somewhere easy to find, and not too busy. If nowhere instantly springs to mind, try searching on the Internet – for example, using a site like Beer in the Evening or the Yellow Pages.
4. Tell other 38 Degrees members (ideally at least two weeks before the visit)
Now you need to tell other 38 Degrees members about your visit to your MP – so you’re not alone when you go. It’s quick and easy to do that. Just:
Go to the 38 Degrees events page, enter your postcode, select “Privacy petition: Visit an MP” then enter in your details.
If you do this the Monday at least 4 days before your visit the 38 Degrees office will be able to email other 38 Degrees members near you and invite them to come with you.
Once you’ve added your event to our site, we’ll be in touch with some extra advice and some materials you might find useful.
5. Confirm the details (a few days before)
It might be worth calling your MP’s office again (using the 38 Degrees tool to find the name and number) to confirm that you’re coming, to let them know the media might be there, and to confirm that you want to hand in the petition.
24 hours before the event the 38 Degrees office will automatically email a reminder to everyone who has said they’ll come with you
7. On the day
Meet up with the other 38 Degrees members at your agreed spot.
Encourage everyone to introduce themselves and have a quick chat through what is going to happen. Make sure that people understand that they can be as involved as they are comfortable with – some people will want to talk to their MP, others might just want to be in the photo as the petition is handed in, or to show moral support.
Get to wherever you are meeting your MP ten minutes or so before the time you arranged, leaving plenty of time to liaise with the MP’s staff and say hello to the media.