A group of privacy advocates has begged ISPs not to co-operate with the government over the communications data bill.

Representatives from the Open Rights Group, Big Brother Watch and Privacy International have all signed today's open letter to Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk, BT, Royal Mail, O2 and Zen Interneta.

The controversial bill has already been shot down once as Lib Dem and Labour MPs, privacy fans and a review committee all objected to the first draft on the basis that the proposed plans infringed privacy rights by requiring ISPs to store all users' web activity for a year on the off-chance one of them breaks a law.

Shady

"There has been no public consultation," points out today's letter, adding that there is no reference to the discussions on any of the ISPs' websites.

"Meetings have been held behind closed doors as policy has been developed in secret, seemingly the same policy formulated several years ago despite widespread warnings from technical experts."

The letter, which doesn't veer away from hyperbole but does make some salient points, goes on to describe the plan for ISPs to create and store "data they currently do not have any business purpose for" for 12 months, relating to what their customers do online.

"Plainly, this crosses a line no democratic country has yet crossed - paying private companies to record what their customers are doing solely for the purposes of the state.

"These proposals are not fit for purpose, which possibly explains why the Home Office is so keen to ensure they are not aired publicly."

The main issue that the privacy warriors have is that regular web users have no say in this bill. They write: "were it not for civil society groups and the media, they would have no idea such a policy was being considered." The letter describes this as "a betrayal of your customers' interests".

Deeply flawed

It concludes by urging the ISPs to "withdraw your participation in a process that is deeply flawed, pursuing a pre-determined solution that puts competition, security and privacy at risk in an unprecedented way".

The letter obviously offers a one-sided view of a complex matter. But when you're up against politicians willing to smear all opponents of the bill as "Criminals, terrorists and paedophiles", then you do have quite a fight on your hands.