Campaigners urge UK to adopt Digital Bill of Rights

Campaign groups and Labour shadow chancellor hope to enshrine consumer and civil rights in law

Labour's shadow chancellor and civil liberties campaigners today urged the UK government to adopt a Digital Bill of Rights.

The cross-party campaign, fronted by Labour MP John McDonnell, launched in the Houses of Parliament today in a bid to protect and enhance elements of the internet, such as privacy, education, access and freedom of speech.

Those championing the cause hope to crowdsource the text of the proposed charter from the British public a process that would be overseen by campaign groups Cybersalon, Digital Liberties and the Open Rights Group, among others.

The text of existing and proposed internet bills from around the world will be made available on the Digital Liberties website to help the public formulate their input.

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The resulting document will then be compiled into draft legislation by expert lawyers and will go before the next session of Parliament.

Speaking at a panel held to mark the launch of the campaign today, Julian Huppert, former Liberal Democrat MP, said the UK has always "waited for something to go catastrophically wrong and then tried to fix it".

Hopefully, he said, a Digital Bill of Rights would help us stop lurching from catastrophe to catastrophe and instead take a more preventative approach.

The digital rights campaigner argued that a proper legal framework will give the people of Britain the same level of consumer protection online as are offered offline.

Fellow panellist Birgitta Jnsdttir, an Icelandic MP and noted digital rights advocate, added that the UK must express key concepts like metadata and net neutrality more clearly.

Without the equivalent of terms like "book burning" for the digital world, it is hard to get people to understand what is at stake, she argued.

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Echoing the points made by Huppert and Eva Pascoe, the panel chair and co-founder of Cybersalon, about the collection and use of data by free online services, Birgitta concluded: "While we have been so focused on the surveillance of the state, we have forgotten about the surveillance of the corporate, which has gone way up."

IT Pro understands some Tory MPs are supportive of the proposed bill but have not officially backed the campaign because of party divisions over the UK's EU membership.

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