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How the UK Passed the Most Invasive Surveillance Law in Democratic History

Tuesday, November 29, 2016 6:20
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target="_blank">THE CONVERSATION

You might not have noticed thanks to  target="_blank" href="/r2/?url="
target="_blank">world events
, but the  href=
target="_blank">UK parliament recently approved
government’s so-called Snooper’s Charter and it will soon become
law. This nickname for the Investigatory Powers Bill is well
earned. It represents a new level and nature of surveillance that
goes beyond anything previously set out in law in a democratic
society. It is not a modernisation of existing law, but something
qualitatively different, something that intrudes upon every UK
citizen’s life in a way that would even a decade ago have been

target="_blank">The bill requires
 internet and telecoms
companies to keep records of every website or app we use and all
our phone calls and messages for 12 months. It leaves us in the
unenviable position of leading the world in the legalisation of
surveillance. And it will likely be used by more authoritarian
regimes around the globe as evidence that mass surveillance, online
hacking and encryption backdoors are perfectly fine.

Because of the way we now use the internet for almost every
element of our lives, this is not like a few carefully chosen
wiretaps on suspects. It’s granting the authorities the capacity to
spy on pretty much everything done by pretty much everyone. And yet
we have let this law pass with very few headlines and barely a
breath of resistance from our politicians.

There are still some legal avenues to prevent it from coming
into effect, most directly through the European Court of Justice
(while the UK is still in the EU) and the European Court of Human
Rights (which is separate from the EU). But more likely to be our
saving graces are the inherent problems with implementing this
poorly conceived legislation and the constantly developing
technology that can potentially by-pass the law.


The Home Office may well say that it has been one of the most
highly scrutinised and analysed bills in recent history. And on the
face of it, they would be right. The UK’s surveillance
activities  ""
target="_blank">have been the subject
 of  "nofollow" href=
target="_blank">a long series
 of  href=
 by a  ""
target="_blank">wide range of bodies
. What the Home Office
won’t say is that they have responded to these various reviews with
a mixture of sidestepping, ignoring, refusing and paying
lip-service to their recommendations.

For example, the  ""
target="_blank">Intelligence and Security Committee’s
 that “privacy protections should form the
backbone of the draft legislation, around which the exceptional
powers are then built” was responded to by changing one title from
“General Protections” to “General Privacy Protections”.

The bill itself remains substantially identical to the one that
was initially proposed and was highly criticised by many of the
reviews. There are limits built in – such as the need for
target="_blank">judge and the home secretary
 to sign off
warrants to intercept communication – but whether they will be more
than a rubber stamp is questionable and will need to be carefully

target="_blank">READ MORE…


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