The proposed investigatory powers bill presently in Parliament authorizes a series of snooping powers for the intelligence services and police. Its passage through parliament has so far been relatively trouble-free, with Labour and the Scottish National party abstaining from a vote despite concerns about an invasion of privacy.
The posters have been created by a coalition of rights groups, called Don’t Spy On Us, and, though satirical, are aimed at making a serious point about the erosion of civil liberties.
Eric King, the director of Don’t Spy On Us, said: “The UK government should be leading the way in guaranteeing safe and secure communications for everyone. Instead it is providing examples for dictators across the world.
“When China introduced controversial sweeping surveillance powers just a few months ago, its government claimed it was doing ‘basically the same as what other major countries in the world do’. Oppressive regimes are already following our lead.”
The Investigatory Powers Bill:
- Requires web and phone companies to store records of websites visited by every citizen for 12 months for access by police, security services and other public bodies.
- Makes explicit in law for the first time security services’ powers for the bulk collection of large volumes of personal communications data.
- Makes explicit in law for the first time the powers of the security services and police to hack into and bug computers and phones. Places new legal obligation on companies to assist in these operations to bypass encryption.
- New “double-lock” on ministerial authorisation of intercept warrants with a panel of seven judicial commissioners given power of veto. But exemptions allowed in “urgent cases” of up to five days.
- Existing system of three oversight commissioners replaced with single investigatory powers commissioner who will be a senior judge.
- Prime minister to be consulted in all cases involving interception of MPs’ communications. Safeguards on requests for communications data in other “sensitive professions” such as journalists to be written into law.
- New Home Office figures show there were 517,236 authorisations in 2014 of requests for communications data from the police and other public bodies as a result of 267,373 applications. There were 2,765 interception warrants authorised by ministers in 2014.
- In the case of interception warrants involving confidential information relating to sensitive professions such as journalists, doctors and lawyers, the protections to be used for privileged information have to be spelled out when the minister approves the warrant.
- Bill includes similar protections in the use of powers to hack or bug the computers and phones of those in sensitive professions as well.
- Internet and phone companies will be required to maintain “permanent capabilities” to intercept and collect the personal data passing over their networks. They will also be under a wider power to assist the security services and the police in the interests of national security.
- Enforcement of obligations on overseas web and phone companies, including the US internet giants, in the courts will be limited to interception and targeted communications data requests. Bulk communications data requests, including internet connection records, will not be enforceable.