Tories suffer privacy backlash over resurrected Snoopers' Charter

Houses of Parliament

A Tory threat to re-introduce the Snoopers' Charter has prompted a backlash from privacy groups just hours after the party won the general election.

Home Secretary Theresa May confirmed she would revisit plans to introduce the Draft Communications Data Bill after it became clear the Conservatives would form a majority government this morning.

Pollsters and experts predicted a hung parliament with no party having an overall majority, but Labour's challenge fell away last night, winning 35 per cent of the vote.

The Liberal Democrats also collapsed, and the Conservatives captured 51 per cent of seats to gain an overall majority.

Then-deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg managed to veto the Snoopers' Charter while in a coalition with the Tories, but now David Cameron's party faces no such obstacle.

It means May can seek to hand British spy agencies citizens' data, by introducing the bill to force internet service providers to collect and store vast amounts of data on users, handing it over to the government on request.

The move prompted an outcry among privacy advocates, who condemned the decision.

Privacy International's legal director, Carly Nyst, told IT Pro: "Raising the spectre of expanded surveillance powers only moments after the election results have emerged is a clear indication of the forthcoming assault on the rights of ordinary British citizens."

She accused the government of ignoring "widespread public concern" about privacy threats, and said the Tories will "sacrifice the civil liberties of Britons everywhere on the altar of national security."

Cameron announced his intention to ban encrypted messaging services if re-elected, saying back in January: "The powers that I believe we need, whether on communications data or on the content of communications, I am very comfortable that those are absolutely right for a modern, liberal democracy."

Then-Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert responded a month later by calling such proposals "catastrophic" for UK businesses intent on securing their products and data.

Huppert lost his seat yesterday, however, and it is hard to see where meaningful opposition to the bill will come from.

But Open Rights Group's executive director, Jim Killock, said he hopes other parties' MPs in Parliament would work together to block any such legislation.

He said: "The Snooper's Charter is discredited, intrusive and treats us all as suspects. We hope that MPs from all parties, who care about civil liberties, will oppose any further attempt to reintroduce this fundamental threat to our freedoms."