Parliament passes most extreme surveillance law in UK history

The UK parliament has passed the Investigatory Powers Bill, the most extreme surveillance law in our history.

The UK Government has failed to respond to widespread public dismay over secret mass surveillance revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013. The Bill will not only put into statute the capabilities revealed by Snowden but extend surveillance even further.

This is not just of grave concern for UK citizens. The impact of the Bill will be felt around the world. Authoritarian leaders with poor human rights records can now point to the UK when justifying their own surveillance regimes.

The Bill will affect:

Our right to privacy: Our communications, Internet use and personal data will be collected, stored and analysed, even if we are not under suspicion of a crime.

Our right to freedom of expression: Freedom of expression relies on the freedom to explore and express ideas without the threat of arbitrary, unnecessary, and disproportionate interference. The IP Bill will have a chilling effect on our freedom to share and discuss.

Investigative journalism: The Bill lacks sufficient guarantees for the protection of journalists and their sources. It also fails to require authorities to notify journalists before hacking into their devices.

The security of the Internet: Bulk hacking powers could undermine the security of the Internet for everyone.

Intelligence sharing: The Bill fails to restrain the sharing of data and integration of technology between the UK and US.

Legal actions

A number of DSOU members are taking legal action against the UK’s mass surveillance powers.  The UK’s legal regime for bulk surveillance is being challenged in two separate cases at the ECHR, while the data retention regime is being questioned in the UK and EU courts in the Watson (previously Watson-Davis) challenge. We expect both courts to place further demands for safeguards and restraints on the highly permissive UK surveillance regime.

Don’t Spy on Us members will continue to challenge the Investigatory Powers Act and fight against mass surveillance.

Comment by Don't Spy on Us executive and affiliates:

Renate Samson, Chief Executive of Big Brother Watch:

“The Government’s unwillingness to debate the broad spectrum of concerns voiced by members of the House of Lords, security experts, business, technologists, lawyers, journalists and privacy campaigners is profoundly disappointing.

“The passing of the Investigatory Powers Bill has fundamentally changed the face of surveillance in this country, none of us online are now guaranteed the right to communicate privately and most importantly securely.”

Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN:

"We know that the Snowden revelations have had a chilling effect on the free expression of journalists, writers and citizens around the world. With the passing of the Investigatory Powers Bill and its unprecedented powers to monitor our Internet use, this chill will get worse.

"The Bill fails to protect journalists and their sources and will affect investigative journalism in the UK and beyond."

Bella Sankey, Policy Director for Liberty:

"The passage of the Snoopers' Charter through Parliament is a sad day for British liberty. 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.

“Liberty has fought tooth and nail against this terrifying legislation, but the paucity of political opposition has been devastating. The fight does not end here. Our message to Government: see you in Court."

Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group:

“The UK now has a surveillance law that is more suited to a dictatorship than a democracy. The state has unprecedented powers to monitor and analyse UK citizens’ communications regardless of whether we are suspected of any criminal activity.

"The impact of this will be felt beyond the UK's shores. It is likely that other countries, including authoritarian regimes with poor human rights records, will use this law to justify their own intrusive surveillance powers."

Caroline Wilson Palow, General Counsel at Privacy International:
“The passage of the Investigatory Powers Act is a major blow to the privacy of people in the UK and all over the world. It sets a world-leading precedent, but not one of which the Government should be proud.  Instead of reining in the unregulated mass surveillance practices that have for years been conducted in secret and with questionable legal authority, the IPA now enshrines them in law. Widespread surveillance is an antithesis to democracy, yet the IPA now sanctions it. Privacy International is disappointed that Parliament has failed to curtail these broad and deep forms of surveillance that will affect each and every one of us, even if we're not suspected of any crime. But the fight is not over. It will simply move from the politicians to the judges, who will need to decide if the IPA is consistent with the rule of law and the values of our democracy.”

Michelle Stanistreet, General secretary of National Union of Journalists:
"The NUJ has campaigned hard to oppose this unjustified and draconian legislation. The secret surveillance of journalists, whistleblowers and sources is an attack on democracy and the public's right to know. The fight doesn't stop here, we will continue to stick to our ethical principles to protect journalistic sources and seek to challenge this new law in every way that is possible."

Rebecca Vincent, UK Bureau Director for Reporters Without Borders (RSF):

"Reporters Without Borders remains extremely concerned by the failure of the Investigatory Powers Bill to sufficiently protect journalists and their sources. The passage of this bill without adequate protection mechanisms could effectively serve as a death sentence for investigative journalism in the UK. Viewed in the context of a broader trend of worrisome moves against press freedom in the UK, the adoption of this menacing bill is very worrisome indeed."



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