Do we need a Magna Carta for the Digital Age? Times Advocacy Competition

Advocacy competition: Do we need a new Magna Carta for the digital age?

Accessed 8 June 2015

New challenges: what is the minimum interference in our freedom that gives maximum protection?
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New challenges: what is the minimum interference in our freedom that gives maximum protection?
Edward Fennell
Published at 12:08AM, May 21 2015
Trolls, instrusive advertising and surveillance: a debate is growing about the need for the protection of our privacy
The digital revolution of the past two decades has transformed our lives. But the promise of a communications Utopia has now turned sour in a bleak landscape of trolls, intrusive advertising and Big Brother surveillance.
So the question for entrants to this year’s Times Student Advocacy competition sponsored by Herbert Smith Freehills is: “Do we need a new Magna Carta for the digital age?” The competition is open to all students registered with a UK academic institution, with prizes on offer worth £6,500 — a king’s ransom back in 1215 when an overbearing King John was compelled to acknowledge that his subjects had rights and that he himself must abide by the law. Entrants must submit 400-word skeleton arguments with a 90-second YouTube presentation to sum up their case by Monday, July 20.
Four shortlisted candidates will then be invited to the grand final, to take place this year in London on September 16. For more details and the full rules, go to and search for student advocacy competition.
“The situation we find ourselves in could be described as even more ‘Orwellian’ than George Orwell himself described in his novel 1984,” says Ian Gatt, QC,head of global advocacy at Herbert Smith Freehills. “The UK has the largest number of CCTV cameras per head of population in the world. There is invasion of personal privacy on a massive scale through the targeting of advertising linked to our internet searches — as evidenced by the case of Google v Vidal-Hall earlier this year.
“And we have had a rise in personal harassment with the emergence of revenge porn and trolling. The result is that many people feel threatened or vulnerable. Whether you are a stressed teenager under attack in her bedroom or a political activist uncomfortable about being spied on, there is a growing view that people need to be protected.”
Much of this concern surfaced in the spring when it became apparent that police, spy agencies and public bodies were granted more than half a million warrants to gather communications data last year. Yet it is not just a fear of an overbearing state driving demand for change. “As soon as you acquire a customer loyalty card or shop online you have exposed yourself to being spied on as to what you buy and what your interests are,” Gatt says. “Similarly through social media, someone who makes a minor error of judgment or inappropriate use of language as a private individual can find herself on the receiving end of anonymous bullying on a mass scale.”
Moreover, in the digital age it is almost impossible not to be caught up in the technology in one way or another. There really is no escape route. That’s why the legislation has to be brought up to date.
“It could be argued that there is already legislation out there, which has actually been used to protect or punish, so that nothing new is needed,” says Gatt. “On the other hand there is a strong argument that a clear declaration of people’s rights backed up by new, coherent and comprehensive laws, is what is required to be clear about the boundaries and make a difference in practice.”
The arguments are not all one way. The more “protection” that is available, the more places to hide there are for people who should be put under scrutiny. The “right to be forgotten”, enabling individuals to request search engines to remove links to news articles, prompted uproar among the media who regarded it as an infringement of the freedom of the press. And when Liberty and others argued against the right of the state to bulk-collect data on security grounds, it was rebuffed passionately by relatives of the terrorist victim Fusilier Lee Rigby, who said: “Their comments showed how little they value life.”
Maybe Graham Foulkes (father of David, a 7/7 fatality) summed it up best. “The question that should be asked is, what’s the minimum interference in our freedom that gives maximum protection?” Answering that lies at the heart of the most challenging aspect of the digital age.

How would I begin to answer that Question?

Laws already in place to deal with Social Media Offences courtesy of John Cooper QC.

New Legislation needs to be created to deal with New problems arising to constrain  the Digital Giants to bring them under the Rule of Law. I suggest this ought to be on a Multi-Jurisdictional Multi-National Basis so there is no place to hide.

There needs to be a global Protest based Revolution  against every expression of Ultra Vires Power expressed by the  Power-abusing Digital Giants.

The Public would need to wake up to the Fact that Facebook asks for abnormally large amounts of information that the State Agencies would love to know. Why people continue to give FB their info I do not know. Social Networking YES  Surveillance of Social Networks by Corporatations NO.

A New Magna Carta for the Digital Age it goes without saying that it ought to be updated for every age its been in and it should have been updated in every age its been in.

There needs to be a mass  global movement demanding this with powers to force and enforce their will, The public need to wake up to the poor deal they are given for products, services,  for becoming Generation Rent, for the gradual erosion of  Civil Rights and Liberties for the decimation of the Legal System, for the States in US and Uk desire to impose on Public a Legal System that does not offer Legal Protections and  Remedies as it gives  one law for the rich and one law for the poor.

There ought to be an Academic Longitunal  Survey  Cross-and-Multi National charting all instances of Corporations being brought under control, Results should be shared confidentially amongst vetted persons. The public needs to be kept fully informed so  Companies and Governments are forced to change behaviour.

Like the ECHR  Provisions in the    Digital Magna Carta need to have Features as expressed in the  ECHR and other Human Rights Instruments, what parts are Non Derogable, what parts Qaulified  others Unqualified, I would aim for integration into national Legislation thoroughly debated and drafted. I would aim for comprehensive and universal integration into National Legislation with  SI’s issued as needed with regular and frequent updates to catch up with technology,

There should be Universal Encryption with no backdoors for spying by  Corporate and Government agencies, privacy should be  right not the right of the rich who can afford all manner of technological innovation to protect them, One  Internet Privacy for the Rich and no internet privacy for the poor,

Human Rights per se should be part and parcel of this per se with the ECHR and all  Human Rights Instruments built into this as a matter of course.

My two pence as Non Lawyer off the top of my head,


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