UK Legislators Want To Toss Tech Company Officials In Jail If They Inform Users About Government Surveillance Efforts

from the this-won't-make-it-far dept

Default mode at tech companies these days is to inform users of government surveillance. Unless explicitly forbidden to do so, multiple companies have stated they will inform users of requests for data or suspected state-sponsored hacking attempts.

The mechanisms inherent in US law usually prevent notification. Requests made by foreign governments, however, operate in a much grayer area. UK legislators are trying to close perceived loopholes with new legislation that would make it illegal to notify users of UK agencies' requests for data. (via Boing Boing)

Bosses at Twitter and other communications companies face up to two years in prison if they tip off customers that spies or the police are monitoring them under a proposed new law.

Ministers want to make it a criminal offence to notify the subject of a surveillance operation that requests of their data have been made, unless expressly allowed.

The move follows concerns some communications and social media firms will alert users if MI5, MI6, GCHQ or the police have asked for their records.
Even if this dubious proposal becomes law, it's unclear exactly how the UK plans to enforce this. Does it send cops to arrest the top exec at the offending company? Or would it go after a lower-level representative -- one that hopefully resides in UK to better avoid the diplomatic awkwardness of extradition proceedings? In all likelihood, if this proposal survives, the jail term will be replaced with a suitably large fine.

This stipulation has been added to the draft version of the Investigatory Powers Bill -- another attempt to broaden the UK's surveillance powers while codifying the quasi-legal spy efforts GCHQ and others already engage in.

This addition would close the "loophole" tech companies are using by shifting the legal burden. Tech companies say they'll notify users unless "expressly forbidden" to do so. The draft bill addition says companies can only notify users if they're "expressly permitted" to do so. With everything hanging on the government's permission, agencies will rarely have to provide justification for secrecy. Instead, the onus will be on tech companies to remain tight-lipped unless the UK government gives them the nod -- something that will undoubtedly be a rarity.

On the plus side, it's not just tech companies being targeted by additions to the draft bill. Similar consequences await those who abuse their surveillance powers.
The bill also proposes a new offence of knowingly or recklessly obtaining communications data without lawful authority.

The measure is aimed at ensuring those officials, officers and spies who access the personal data do so legitimately and appropriately.

Those who break the law will also face up to two years in prison.
Of course, enforcement of this proposed addition sounds just as unlikely as UK police officers handcuffing Google execs for informing a surveillance target of the UK government's interest in them.

I'd say we'll just have to wait and see, but the draft bill is becoming a dumping ground for every wild-eyed legislator's idea on how to better "secure" the UK against the threat of terrorism. There are certainly more, equally-terrible ideas on the way. The only hope is that most of these will be discarded as the bill moves forward. It's a given that far too many bad ideas will still survive, but with any luck, the worst suggestions won't make it into the final version.

Filed Under: gag orders, surveillance, tech companies, uk


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  • icon
    dpaus (profile), 6 Jan 2016 @ 9:45am

    "...to better avoid the diplomatic awkwardness of extradition proceedings"

    Yeah, that's what Kim Dotcom said, isn't it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Socrates, 7 Jan 2016 @ 1:49am

      Re:

      The Kim Dotcom saga should have been the biggest wake up call ever, so far. But lets not forget the TPB saga either.

      Kim Dotcom had a corporation with several hundred million users. His home were attacked with armed goons. The MAFIAA were behind the SWATing call. The claims consisted of such nonsense as he were willfully infringing because he had not deleted files the FBI had ordered him not to delete.

      For Google it is worth noting that size of the company or usefulness to the citizens of the world don't protect your home. Nor is it easy to defend yourself if you are robbed.

      Google choose to do nothing to defend Kim Dotcom

      For Google it is also worth noting that the investigations were complete farces, so it does not matter if Google bends over to any requests the AA's make. In the TPB case the lead investigator were hired by one side in the case, the AA side. The judge self-selected himself, an act that is illegal in Sweden. The judge were a member of an organization that works for more aggressive copyrights.

      This should remind Google of Jim Hood.

      Google did nothing to defend TPB.


      Now Google stands alone, next in line. They did not defend the search organization, nor the cloud company

      The AA's harm Google, and Sony and Disney say:
      Google, headbutt with the Hammer
      Google, headbutt with the Hammer
      and stupid Google does as it is told.


      Google must understands that unless it fight Sony, Disney and Jim Hood and win, soon, any night can be the moment they're SWATed into next Dotcom. Mercy on their families.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Capt ICE Enforcer, 6 Jan 2016 @ 9:55am

    Happened before

    It has happened before. Look at Kim Dotcom who never been to the US, owned no property in the US, but had a helicopter raid against him in his home led by the US. That was all over a cyber locker not dealing with supposedly national security issues. I could see the UK doing the same thing over here in the US, with the news media claiming terrorist or some other shit like that. To big to fail not only involves banks and wall street. But also government officials who feel all powerful by not being held accountable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Jan 2016 @ 10:14am

      Re: Happened before

      You are sadly mistaken, due to the balance of actual power, the US can demand action of a foreign company, while refusing to assist foreign countries against their own citizens. Sovereignty matter when it your own sovereignty, but not when it's someone else’s and you are the biggest bully in the world.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jan 2016 @ 9:56am

    Forgive me if I am wrong, but isn't this called treason. betraying ones fellow citizens for your own gain seems what they are trying to do by passing this bill.

    If you tell your fellow citizens we are abusing and violating the rights we say we give them we shall use all our powers to silence you out of spite. Sounds like treason to me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 6 Jan 2016 @ 10:14am

    New canary

    "Your account data has not been requested or spied upon as of 1/6/2016".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Jan 2016 @ 10:34am

      Re: New canary

      Motorola built fuses into their phones so when you unlocked the bootloader, it would trip the fuse and never be able to lock again.

      I think something similar to this should be implemented for retrieving data for the government.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jan 2016 @ 10:32am

    The measure is aimed at ensuring those officials, officers and spies who access the personal data do so legitimately and appropriately.
    Those who break the law will also face up to two years in prison.
    Using my advanced knowledge of arcane applications of analytical mathematics, I can't help but notice that 'up to two years' includes 'zero'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Chris Brand, 6 Jan 2016 @ 10:56am

      Re:

      True, but that "up to two years in prison" is extremely common as a penalty. For some reason, two years is a magic amount of time that you can only be sentenced to if you do something more serious.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Jan 2016 @ 11:51am

      Re:

      The measure is aimed at ensuring those officials, officers and spies who access the personal data do so legitimately and appropriately.
      Those who break the law will also face up to two years in prison.

      > Using my advanced knowledge of arcane applications of analytical mathematics, I can't help but notice that 'up to two years' includes 'zero'.

      Using my advanced knowledge of credit card terms and conditions, I can't help but notice that 'up to two years' does not mean that anything less than two years is ever going to be sought by those on the superior power side of the stick.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Chris Brand, 6 Jan 2016 @ 10:59am

    lawful authority

    So the bill that essentially ensures that the government is always allowed to access everyone's communications includes penalties for people who exceed their authority ? Doesn't sound like a whole lot of oversight to me...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jan 2016 @ 11:06am

    what the hell has put this fucking great weed up the arses of the UK government? it's taking this surveillance thing to a whole new level! i wonder if it's because Cameron is afraid of being found out because of something stupid he did before being Prime Minister or being found out who backed him when running for being Prime Minister?
    whatever the answer, he is systematically destroying the very things the UK was so famous for and so adamant about keeping, PRIVACY AND FREEDOM!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 6 Jan 2016 @ 11:15am

    Secret for Me, Prison for Thee

    UK Legislators Want To Toss Tech Company Officials In Jail If They Inform Users About Government Surveillance Efforts

    What happens to UK government officials who break the law under the guise of national security and then hide their crimes behind the Official Secrets Act of 1989?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jigsy, 6 Jan 2016 @ 11:35am

    It's almost as if the UK is run by Commandant Klink.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jan 2016 @ 2:05pm

    They can pass the law if they want, it just means that Tech companies will move out of, and stay out of the UK.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Socrates, 7 Jan 2016 @ 2:12am

      The five eyes and Sweden

      Canadians were told by national television of the danger of being robbed by the US police.

      Already corporations and people (and governments) shy away from software, services, and cloud offerings from the five eyes and Sweden.

      I wonder when a European government make an official recommendation to avoid the surveillance states for confidentiality and privacy. The petroleum spy scandal were a chock for Brazil!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Jan 2016 @ 3:00pm

    So the spy-person who oversteps the mark & gets caught will go into the open court system to be tried & everything that they do, or don't do will be seen by the public as it will be quite a contentious case for the media to follow.

    However due to National Security this will never come about & the spy-person will get off scot-free & be able to continue to do the wrong things well into the future & receive bonuses & promotion, along with their colleagues.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Seegras (profile), 7 Jan 2016 @ 3:16am

    Political Prisoners

    Let me rephrase that: We're going to put people into prison because of civil disobedience, because they've still got the morals to stand up for the state of law and help their fellow citizens and protect their human rights.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jan 2016 @ 6:09am

    The infinite loop:

    The state itself is a corporation. Which would mean that the government publicly disclosing investigations into itself would now be a criminal act as well. And that pretty much encapsulates the bulk of the legislative process doesn't it?

    "I can almost see the headlines - if there were going to be any - 'Existence Erased - Thanks to some prick in a scarlet cape.' --Dogma

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bruce Sterling, 7 Jan 2016 @ 3:21pm

    Germany 1934 says "Hallo"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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