UK: New surveillance law sets dangerous global precedent

UK: New surveillance law sets dangerous global precedent - Civic Space

The House of Commons with The Clock Tower in Westminster, London. Although the tower is popularly referred to as Big Ben, this is actually the nickname of the bell housed within whose official name is the Great Bell.

The UK Parliament has passed the Investigatory Powers Bill, the most extreme surveillance law in our history.

On the adoption of the Investigatory Powers Bill, ARTICLE 19’s Executive Director, Thomas Hughes commented that “The Investigatory Powers Bill passed today by parliament will erode hard-won civil liberties and human rights. Now people in the UK will have some of the most invasive surveillance legislation to enter a statute book. No longer will private communications be private and no longer will journalists’ sources be protected. The UK government should be deeply troubled as it sets this dangerous and worrying precedent worldwide.”

The UK Government has failed to respond to widespread public dismay over secret mass surveillance revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013.

The Bill will not only put into statute the capabilities revealed by Snowden but extend surveillance even further.

This is not just of grave concern for UK citizens. The impact of the Bill will be felt around the world. Authoritarian leaders with poor human rights records can now point to the UK when justifying their own surveillance regimes.

The Bill will affect:

  • Our right to privacy: Our communications, Internet use and personal data will be collected, stored and analysed, even if we are not under suspicion of a crime.
  • Our right to freedom of expression: Freedom of expression relies on the freedom to explore and express ideas without the threat of arbitrary, unnecessary, and disproportionate interference. The IP Bill will have a chilling effect on our freedom to share and discuss. 
  • Investigative journalism: The Bill lacks sufficient guarantees for the protection of journalists and their sources. It also fails to require authorities to notify journalists before hacking into their devices.
  • The security of the Internet: Bulk hacking powers could undermine the security of the Internet for everyone.
  • Intelligence sharing: The Bill fails to restrain the sharing of data and integration of technology between the UK and USA.

A number of Don’t Spy on Us members are taking legal action against the UK’s mass surveillance powers. The UK’s legal regime for bulk surveillance is being challenged in two separate cases at the ECHR, while the data retention regime is being questioned in the UK and EU courts in the Watson (previously Watson-Davis) challenge. It is expected that both courts will call for safeguards and restraints on the highly permissive UK surveillance regime.

Don’t Spy on Us members will continue to challenge the Investigatory Powers Act and fight against mass surveillance.

Don’t Spy on Us is a coalition of the most influential organisations who defend privacy, free expression and digital rights in the UK and in Europe – ARTICLE 19, Big Brother Watch, English PEN, Liberty, Open Rights Group and Privacy International.