UK Government Pushes Forward With Insane Snooper's Charter, Despite Widespread Concerns

from the concerns-can-be-ignored-when-you're-in-power dept

We’ve written a few times in the past year about the latest UK efforts to enact its “Snooper’s Charter” law, officially the Investigatory Powers Bill, which would give the government much greater surveillance capabilities. Right after last year’s election, Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Office Secretary Theresa May made it clear that they were going to go full Orwell, and do whatever possible to grant themselves greater powers to spy on everyone. As more concerns were raised, we noted that the government pretended to back down, while still including all the bad stuff people predicted.

As more and more complaints about the bill were raised, we noted May decided to try to rush the bill through, along with a healthy dose of “if you don’t do this we’re all going to die!” FUD. That included releasing a new draft of the bill, which pretended to address the privacy concerns people raised, but which did so basically by just adding the word “privacy” to a heading and making no substantive changes to protect privacy at all (and possibly changes that made things worse).

Rest assured that a lot of people are seriously uncomfortable with all of this. A group of over 200 leading lawyers in the UK have sent a letter slamming the bill:

At present the draft law fails to meet international standards for surveillance powers. It requires significant revisions to do so.

First, a law that gives public authorities generalised access to electronic communications contents compromises the essence of the fundamental right to privacy and may be illegal. The investigatory powers bill does this with its ?bulk interception warrants? and ?bulk equipment interference warrants?.

Second, international standards require that interception authorisations identify a specific target ? a person or premises ? for surveillance. The investigatory powers bill also fails this standard because it allows ?targeted interception warrants? to apply to groups or persons, organisations, or premises.

Third, those who authorise interceptions should be able to verify a ?reasonable suspicion? on the basis of a factual case. The investigatory powers bill does not mention ?reasonable suspicion? ? or even suspects ? and there is no need to demonstrate criminal involvement or a threat to national security.

These are international standards found in judgments of the European court of justice and the European court of human rights, and in the recent opinion of the UN special rapporteur for the right to privacy. At present the bill fails to meet these standards ? the law is unfit for purpose.

Meanwhile, internet service providers, tech companies, and civil liberties groups have asked the government to delay moving forward with the bill, but it does not appear that May has any interest in doing so.

On Tuesday, the House of Commons had its “Second Reading” of the bill, and the debate about it allowed some to raise concerns, but with various parties deciding to abstain from voting, rather than vote against it, the bill moved forward easily (it’ll come back to Parliament after the House of Lords goes through the bill). Even worse, the main “opposition” to the bill was not that strongly raised:

Andy Burnham, former Home Office minister, stood to offer the Labour party’s official perspective. If there is substantive opposition to the contents of the IP Bill within the Labour party – and I know there is from MPs like Tom Watson and David Winnick – then there was little evidence of it from Mr Burnham’s contribution to the debate. He opened by trotting out the dire need to combat the four horsemen of the infocalypse and the false and distorting ‘balance security with privacy’ dichotomy. From those foundations he was highly unlikely to get anywhere enlightened.

While we’re fighting against backdoors and for encryption here in the US, it looks like the UK government is potentially moving very much in the other direction.

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Comments on “UK Government Pushes Forward With Insane Snooper's Charter, Despite Widespread Concerns”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

It's a race

Which semi-democratic government can gain the total totalitarian title first and how many can they crush on the way. Next they will vie for the most totalitarian (yeah I know ‘total’ and ‘most’ don’t juxtapose well, but do they know that?). The goal after that will be world domination and who’s top dog (two totalitarians walk into a bar…).

The question is how long that will take, or what the peons will get around to doing about it.

Rapnel (profile) says:

Can I just say that the UK is at the tippety-top of my list of ‘do not disturb’ places? Absolute top. There’s nobody disgusting me more on the entire planet than these guys right now – and there’s some pretty disgusting shit going on.

What the fuck is it with these old white-guy countries? They’re completely loosing their shit and taking down the planet in swaths.

It’s like we’ve completely lost control of our senses and our governments are steaming head-strong into absolute positions of authority. So comfortably.

IP and FEAR, Baby! There will be ink.

Someone recently said to me “I’m just waiting for some country to get pissed off enough and drop one on us.” and I replied “I’m just waiting for some people to get pissed off enough at their countries”. I know I’m pissed at mine.

Whatever (profile) says:

Unlike the US, the UK has plenty of experience with terrorist bombings, terrorist acts, and is sitting on a melting pot of cultural communities which threaten to boil over at any moment. The situation is what the US may face in the future, but not for now.

So the UK as a whole (the people and the governments) have perhaps a different view of things because of their experiences. They have perhaps a better understanding of the values of things on both sides which are being traded off. Uk and Europe have lived through World Wars not as some distance event but as bomb being dropped on their heads.

Not everyone feels this way, but it’s a situation that makes the UK much different from the US.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

With regard to the ‘Irish Problem’ probably not many directly. But one has to look at Britain’s Imperialistic point of view with regard to Ireland, forcing their government, their religion, their lords, taking Irish property, etc. for something like 700 years. Did they really think there would be no kickback? Weren’t there a couple of incidents that might have clued them in, but they just wouldn’t let go?

I suspect we will see more of that kind of behavior, maybe just not from the Irish this time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Most of them sadly.

As we now know from government documents, the bombing of the hotel during the Tory party conference in the 1980s was allowed to go ahead as Thatcher considered that the risk to MPs was considered to be less than the ability to pass some pretty draconian laws.

AND we also know Margaret Thatcher fought the miners when they went on strike in the 80s purely because she had controlling shares in German and French mining companies.
Entirely 100% for her own profit.
Not to mention how her son committed TREASON by selling exocet missiles to Argentina DURING the falklands war, and several of those missiles were used to kill British soldiers, but she gave him an official pardon even before he’d been put on trial.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So the UK as a whole (the people and the governments) have perhaps a different view of things because of their experiences.

You seem to be attempting to imply that the UK does this crap because “we know how scary is really is out there and this is what’s really needed”.

Wrong… in fact 180 degrees wrong. Certainly any UK citizen alive in the ’80s is familiar with the threat of terrorism more intimately and immediately than the mot ofthe US but that lends a rather more sensible perspective. Such people know that, while terrible, the actual threat is small – potentially even vanishingly small – and barely worth more than a slightly cautious thought in day-to-day life.

The issue is not whether the UK population wants this law (it doesn’t)(, the issue is whether the UK government wants this law that will in fact do little to combat “terrorism” that is not already being done) for other reasons and whether the UK population is little enough aware of the real dangers of it to swallow the propaganda or only raise a mild and polite English protest.

UriGagarin (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No. We have a lot of experience of local terrorism for as long as I can remember. this supposed threat by thousands of jihadists is a load of nonsense. The purpose of the bill is to try install the same big brother “we see you” provisions that all governments/civil service (decide who actually want it) want .
The only thing about the 7/7 bombings that really made a difference was that I had to show my bag at a cricket match . That was more about taking alcohol in than terrorism .

We are not scared. Our Government are .

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Unlike the US, the UK has plenty of experience with terrorist bombings, terrorist acts, and is sitting on a melting pot of cultural communities which threaten to boil over at any moment. The situation is what the US may face in the future, but not for now.

Someday the US might even face groups of terrorists acting together to hijack multiple planes and fly them into large buildings. Then the US might know what terrorists are, unlike the UK, huh?

Monday (profile) says:

The concern isn’t wide enough!!!

The concern isn’t wide enough!!!

What I see happening here is a new ‘Monster’ being created.

There are three key actors in this new chapter: United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. Canada is involved to a lesser degree – imho, and that is because we observers have not experienced enough impressions of just how much, what is, where is it applicable type alterations to Canadian Law regarding the Internet. They are not very forthcoming.

United States is embroiled in the Encryption debate – has been for a while. Australia has recently passed a highly controversial ‘Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill’. The United Kingdom is trying to pass the Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Law), which truly is Orwellian in nature. You really should read it, or at least glance through.

Individually, these are huge. Separately, these events are seemingly harmless when viewed from a foreign perspective. Encryption in the US? Well, that’s the Americans’ problem. Australia has an incredibly invasive, all-inclusive, “lazy and dangerous” intellectual property/anti-piracy/censorship/content law? Hey, that’s the bloody Drongos’ problem… Minister Malcolm Turnbull, struth! He’s gone off. And, finally; United Kingdom wants to know the; colour of your knickers; do you like Met-Art; the last Epub you downed to your i6S? Hey! They said yes to all the cameras, this shouldn’t be a problem with the Brits.

NOW… TOGETHER, it’s altogether a different ℮✄ρℯяḯ℮η¢ε. We have a nearly assembled ‘Monster’. These three nations have agreements to share intelligence. Intelligence covers everything from mobile metadata to credit card purchases, to home internet to a book you borrowed from your university’s library. What one country gathers, it can also share, and a trick of loop-holes, sharing data means the data can be “shared” back to you. Quite legal.

Now our monster is taken the form of Gargantua – and this is a black hole of the same name sized problem. Any one government has access to any piece of a person’s life… and it is tsill all legal.

This is how I see all these changes coming into being. It is not a matter of one country doing this, and another country doing another, p̶o̶s̶s̶i̶b̶l̶y̶ almost certainly illegal thing, it is all these things combined that really frightens me.

Freedoms are being eroded from the outside in, but there is not a lot of individuals keeping an eye on how all this is evolving. I’m not paranoid. People really are watching me………. and you……… and you……….. and you…

I’m just saying…

Agent76 says:

500 Years of History Shows that Mass Spying Is Always Aimed at Crushing Dissent

January 9, 2014 500 Years of History Shows that Mass Spying Is Always Aimed at Crushing Dissent, **It’s Never to Protect Us From Bad Guys**

No matter which government conducts mass surveillance, they also do it to crush dissent, and then give a false rationale for why they’re doing it.

Anonymous Howard says:


As the Conservative government holds an overall Commons majority, they could in theory force it through regardless of what anyone says.

Further, although the main opposition Labour party has spoken out against the IP Bill, they are only against certain aspects of it. They are broadly in favour of more spying powers. In fact, it was Labour who first put forward a “snooper’s charter” during Warmonger Blair’s time in charge.

And there’s no guarantee that the House of Lords (which sits above the Commons, legislatorily speaking) will reject it, as it is largely Conservative too.

Some wish for the Lords to be abolished, I would prefer for it to be reformed to a fully-elected upper chamber, with a different voting system so that one party cannot dominate without an equally dominant share of the vote.

(of course, it would be even better if we could have Swiss-style referendums, but that would give us ‘too much’ power)

BTW, if our government is scared, they are scared of us, the electorate. They are scared because in four and a half years time we can vote them out. They are scared because we might vote to leave the EU. They are scared because we might not do what they tell us.

Why else would a schoolboy be visited by the police for viewing the website of the pro-‘Brexit’ UK Independence Party? Because he didn’t conform, he sought to think for himself.

Police State 2016.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Alas

Some wish for the Lords to be abolished, I would prefer for it to be reformed to a fully-elected upper chamber

Actually, a large hereditary peerage, with no quora as a review body, is a good way of enabling a random selection of people to review proposed legislation. Most of the time, many would not attend the Lords, but when something controversial come up, they can. Such a body of people tend to have a much better feel for the mood of the people.
All elected bodies fall into the control of professional politicians via a party system, and rarely represent the people, but rather whoever holds the purse string for their election campaigns.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Alas

Leaving or staying in the EU is a red herring.
The rich stay in power and continue to receive MASSIVE chunks of the tax coming in to HMRC as their ‘deserved reward’. (e.g. wal-mart being PAID money instead of paying taxes).

The EU referendum changes absolutely nothing and is the perfect distraction whilst the Government Knows Best Act (i.e. snoopers charter) is implemented complete with the bits about being able to imprison people indefinitely without trial for being a bit terrorist looking (i.e. not white)

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Alas

we will never be a Police State no matter how much they try

‘It/That will never happen here’, the battlecry of those that wake up one day to find out that their certainty was misplaced, and that yes in fact it can and has, because people didn’t do enough to stop it, safe in their assumption that ‘that could never happen here’.

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