UK’s Surveillance Measures

The UK has recently proposed an Investigatory Powers Bill, which will provide new surveillance powers to the police and security services.

Given that in this day-and-age most communication is carried out via the internet as opposed to doing so by telephone, the above-mentioned Bill attempts to update the law in order for the police and security services to be empowered to access such communication data.

The bill includes powers requiring internet and telecommunications companies to keep internet records for a maximum of one year, this will allow the above-mentioned persons to track every website visited however, not every page.

Under the provisions of the draft Investigatory Powers Bill the police and security services will be empowered to access records tracking every UK citizen’s use of the internet, without the need of acquiring a warrant.  What is required is that the investigating officer’s request must be signed off by a senior officer.

However, if more intrusive information is needed, such as accessing the content of emails, hacking into computers and tapping telephones, a warrant would be required from the home secretary or another senior minister.  In this respect, the draft Bill proposes the creation of the Investigatory Powers Commission made up of a panel of judges, who would have to veto such requests.

Experts have commented on the Bill and said that the Bill goes beyond the powers which, are available to security services in the United States. Furthermore, the proposals in the draft Bill have raised concerns from the Computer and Communications Industry Association, which is a group comprised of internet and telecoms firms such as Google and Facebook.  The Director of the mentioned group has said that the Bill is a setback for privacy rights and it is increasing governmental surveillance in Europe, as opposed to what the US is doing by reforming its surveillance practices.

However, from the other point of view the draft Bill could help police to track suspect behaviour online, for example to check as to whether a suspect has downloaded a terrorist manual, child pornography etc.

The draft Bill will set the parameters as to what the State can do with a person’s data in relation to the digital age.

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