LibDems: We'll protect your privacy from spying

Nick Clegg ex-MP

The Liberal Democrats would curb government spying and give people greater control over their personal data if the party returns to Whitehall after the general election.

That's according to the party's election manifesto - here are the highlights that affect the world of tech.

Personal data and privacy

Privacy would be safeguarded by the Lib Dems, who also back people and businesses' ability to use strong encryption to protect their data a marked departure from Prime Minister David Cameron's desire to outlaw encrypted communication services.

Earlier this week, leader Nick Clegg revealed he would introduce a Digital Bill of Rights if elected, that would forbid the government from watering down anyone's cyber security measures.

Data thieves would get prison sentences under the bill, while authorities could only invade someone's privacy where there's reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.

Building on their opposition of the Snooper's Charter, the Liberal Democrats would oppose the blanket collection of people's personal data by police or government bodies, promising privacy would be "the norm".

The manifesto read: "Requiring companies to store a record of everyone's internet activities for a year or to collect third-party communications data for non-business purposes is disproportionate and unacceptable, as is the blanket surveillance of our paper post."

It would also ban electronic Mosquito devices, which are sold as anti-loitering' devices emitting high-frequency noises to disperse young people from areas in which they may gather.

"In the modern digital age, the power of the state and of corporate interests can threaten our privacy and liberty," added the manifesto.

"There will be a complete overhaul of surveillance powers in 2016. We need to ensure this and other opportunities are seized as a chance to control excessive state power, and ensure that in an era when surveillance is easier than ever before, we maintain the right to privacy and free speech."

SMBs and start-ups

While the Tories have set a target for 30 per cent of public procurement to be spent on SMBs, the Lib Dems are more vague simply promising to continue working to open up procurement to SMBs.

However, it would seek to establish a British Business Bank to tackle the lack of equity capital for start-ups and entrepreneurs.

There's also plans to build on London's Tech City, and other tech clusters such as Cambridge's, to create a network of such scenes acting as incubators for tech talent and businesses around the UK.

By supporting fast-growing businesses, the Lib Dems hope to create a million jobs over 20 years.

Education and skills

STEM subject take-up would be promoted in schools, while coding would stay on the National Curriculum under the Lib Dems.

To do this, primary schools would be encouraged to each have at least one science specialist, while secondary school teachers would be pressured to have degrees in the subject they teach.

Young people could take part in digital skills courses, as could unemployed people, an initiative alongside private sector employers and education or training providers.

When it comes to the skills gap, the Lib Dems would expand the number of foundation degrees, Higher National Diplomas, Higher National Certificates and Higher Apprenticeships to create more technically-skilled specialists.

The party wants Britain to be a hub of manufacturing, science, creative, digital and green industries, open to foreign entrepreneurs.

Digital government and open data

There's less in the manifesto on digital government, but the party is keen to continue making public services digital by default, a process set in motion by the coalition under the Government Digital Service (GDS).

Clegg's party wants to keep the GDS going and develop it, expanding the drive to digital into local government, too.

Looking at government datasets, the Lib Dems don't differ from Labour and the Conservatives in that they support an open data policy, releasing information in an open and accessible format.


While Labour promises total superfast broadband coverage of Britain by 2020, and the Tories offer 95 per cent coverage by 2017, the Lib Dems say they will ensure 99.9 per cent coverage by 2020.