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LibDems unveil plan for Digital Rights Bill



Nick Clegg wants to hit government harder when it suffers data breaches

Government bodies that breach data protection laws will face "disciplinary action" from the information commissioner under Liberal Democrat plans announced today.

Party leader Nick Clegg has promised a hard-hitting Digital Rights Bill if his party forms a fresh coalition after the general election, to be introduced within the first six months.

The legislation would include beefed up powers for the information commissioner to fine the government for data breaches, or take stronger action.

Other key measures would include:

  • prison sentences for companies conducting large scale data theft and illegally selling on personal data;
  • legal rights to compensation for consumers when companies get people to sign up online to deliberately misleading or unreadable terms and conditions;
  • a code of practice for online services, requiring them to correct information about members of the public where it is inaccurate or defamatory;
  • giving government a legal responsibility to defend the free press, including the rights of journalists and citizen journalists to express their views freely online;
  • preventing the government from watering down cyber security and encryption measures relied on by British businesses;
  • making government data "accessible to the public to use and share", to allow people to benefit from new products and services.

Clegg said: "The way in which we work, socialise, buy products and use services has changed at lightning speed since the digital revolution. However, government and politicians have responded at snail's pace, with a poor understanding of new technology and the impact it is having on our lives.

"Our Digital Bill of Rights will finally enshrine into law our rights as citizens of this country to privacy, to stop information about our lives being misused, and to protect our right to freedom of speech."


Clegg has launched a public consultation on the proposed bill, accusing both Labour and the Conservatives of blocking prison sentences for large scale theft of personal data.

Julian Huppert, the party's digital rights spokesman, will host a Twitter debate on the bill on Monday (13th) from 1.00-1.30pm, with the hashtag #digitalrights.

It follows headline grabbing reports that private companies have been selling the details of people's pension pots, in breach of data protection laws.

Image: Nick Clegg, from Harry Hitchens, Creative Commons 1.0 through Wikimedia.

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