Bri­tain ap­proves ‘ex­treme sur­veil­lance’ law

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

THE Bri­tish par­lia­ment has given a green light to new bulk sur­veil­lance pow­ers for po­lice and in­tel­li­gence ser­vices that crit­ics have de­nounced as the most far-reach­ing of any west­ern democ­racy.

The In­ves­ti­ga­tory Pow­ers Bill, which was passed on Thurs­day, would, among other mea­sures, re­quire web­sites to keep cus­tomers’ brows­ing his­tory for up to a year and al­low law en­force­ment agen­cies ac­cess to help with in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Ed­ward Snow­den, for­mer US Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency con­trac­tor-turned-whistle­blower, said the pow­ers “went fur­ther than many au­toc­ra­cies”.

“The UK has just le­galised the most ex­treme sur­veil­lance in the his­tory of west­ern democ­racy,” he said on Twit­ter.

The bill, the first ma­jor up­date of Bri­tish sur­veil­lance laws for 15 years, was passed by the House of Lords and now only needs rub­ber-stamp­ing by Queen Eliz­a­beth II.

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May in­tro­duced the bill in March when she was still in­te­rior min­is­ter, de­scrib­ing it as “world-lead­ing” leg­is­la­tion in­tended to re­flect the change in on­line com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

The bill gives le­gal foot­ing to ex­ist­ing but murky pow­ers such as the hack­ing of com­put­ers and mo­bile phones, while in­tro­duc­ing new safe­guards such as the need for a judge to au­tho­rise in­ter­cep­tion war­rants. But crit­ics have dubbed it the “snooper’s char­ter” and say that, in autho­ris­ing the blan­ket re­ten­tion and ac­cess by au­thor­i­ties of records of emails, calls, texts and web ac­tiv­ity, it breaches fun­da­men­tal rights of pri­vacy.

The UN’s spe­cial rap­por­teur on the right to pri­vacy, Joe Can­nat­aci, crit­i­cised the bill in his March 2016 re­port, say­ing “pri­vacy-in­tru­sive mea­sures such as bulk sur­veil­lance and bulk hack­ing as con­tem­plated in the In­ves­ti­ga­tory Pow­ers Bill be out­lawed rather than le­git­imised”.

Rights or­gan­i­sa­tion Lib­erty has chal­lenged the leg­is­la­tion at the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice, ar­gu­ing it is in­com­pat­i­ble with hu­man rights law, and a judg­ment is ex­pected next year.

“The pas­sage of the Snoop­ers’ Char­ter through par­lia­ment is a sad day for Bri­tish lib­erty,” said Bella Sankey, the group’s pol­icy di­rec­tor. “Un­der the guise of counter-ter­ror­ism, the state has achieved to­tal­i­tar­ian-style sur­veil­lance pow­ers — the most in­tru­sive sys­tem of any democ­racy in hu­man his­tory. It has the abil­ity to in­dis­crim­i­nately hack, in­ter­cept, record, and mon­i­tor the com­mu­ni­ca­tions and in­ter­net use of the en­tire pop­u­la­tion,” she said. — AP

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