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Surveillance Transparency is Now More Important Than Ever

With the announcement of emergency legislation on the retention and interception of communications data the question of safeguarding the privacy of individuals should be foremost in the minds of legislators.

However the speed that the Bill is tabled to progress at raises concerns over the amount of scrutiny it will receive. If the Government wants to force communication service providers to retain citizens’ data then they must be prepared to open the system to a greater deal of transparency than is already in place.

As Big Brother Watch has repeatedly pointed out it is possible to increase the level of transparency around surveillance without compromising security. In the US the Department of Justice publishes information provided by federal and state officials on orders authorizing or approving interceptions of wire, oral, or electronic communications in annual reports.

The Government’s transparency around the acquisition of communications data has recently been criticised by the Interception of Communications Commissioner, Sir Anthony May. He argued that “the unreliability and inadequacy of the statistical requirements is a significant problem which requires attention.” This followed the Home Affairs Select Committee’s inquiry into Counter-Terrorism measures, which found that there was a need for greater transparency around the use of surveillance legislation.

Big Brother Watch believe that the following amendment will lead to greater transparency, build trust amongst the public and improve accountability within the intelligence services. We are sending it to Members of Parliament for their consideration, you can help by writing to your MP to add your voice to the calls for surveillance transparency.

Amendment (1) Transparency on data collection

New clause:

To require any public authority requesting data requested from a communications service provider to maintain proper records including:

a) The category of offence being investigated

b) The length of time the data had been retained by the CSP when it was requested

c) The type of data requested, as per the definitions in s21 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

Amendment (2) Legal certainty for transparency reporting

RIPA s54(6): To add (c): Where the disclosure was made within an aggregated statistical disclosure covering a period of time greater than six months.

 

NOTE:

The second amendment concerns the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. Specifically it addresses the ‘tipping off’ offence, which is often cited as a reason why companies cannot release transparency reports. This amendment would prevent the use of detailed data making an individual aware they are the subject of an investigation, but would allow statistics to be made available at six monthly (or greater) intervals.

Posted on by Dan Nesbitt Posted in Home

9 Responses to Surveillance Transparency is Now More Important Than Ever

  1. Anonymous

    Anyone aware that all this is about, is to legalise what they’re already doing so there are NO legal ground for the anti-GCHQ legal cases.

    Well, that’s it in a nutshell..

    • Anonymous

      Anyone aware that all this is about, is to legalise what they’re already doing so there are NO legal ground for the anti-GCHQ legal cases.

      Well, that’s it in a nutshell..

      Missed the bit about the UK Government panicking because Tony Blair’s EU data retention directive got ruled illegal across the EU.

  2. Mike Cunningham

    Various commentators, MPs and other public figures have raised their voices against this hurried, rushed and, to my way of thinking, unnecessary legislation.
    My own view is that any law, even one equipped with a so-called sunset clause, is unworthy of a Parliament, and a Government, which praises itself to the skies over privacy, the Rule of Law, and defence of the Nation.
    Why the rush? The European Court’s decision has been out for over three months. Has someone just noticed? Or is the ease of people such as GCHQ to skate around present legislation about to be challenged?

    I believe rather strongly in the old adage regarding Westmionster politicians, who claim to be acting and speaking on our behalf:-
    “How can you tell if they are lying? Simple, their lips are moving”

  3. Andy Smith

    This seems to have been deliberately timed so that it could be rushed through without proper scrutiny. This law was ruled to be illegal by Europe, introducing a get around makes it obvious this should, but won’t, be defeated. I could accept, possibly, the idea if judges had to grant individual access to this information rather than just let anybody and his brother gain access to it. As David Davis showed, this meta data allows far too much to be discovered about anyone with a mobile device. I rarely leave my house, so am unlikely to be affected, but lawyers, trade union officials, inventors, and many others would be.

    • Anonymous

      This seems to have been deliberately timed so that it could be rushed through without proper scrutiny.

      The last time they did something like this was when they rushed through the Digital Economy Act. Never anything good comes from these rushed laws, so-called emergency only because of Anti-GCHQ legal cases and the recent news of the EU data retention directive being scrapped across the board. Oh dear, emergency!!! (Sarcasm)

  4. Nicholas Dove

    “If you’ve nothing to hide you have nothing to fear” is much bandied about in defense of these evil measures. They also reassure us that they are only read where there is justification. If that is true, let the MPs make public all their internet and telephone records, and put them online. We promise we wont read them so you have nothing to worry about, after all “we are all in this together.” to quote our Dear Leader oops I meant Our PM.
    Big society = Big Brother.
    PS Hello to all the boys and girls at GCHQ MI5 MI6 NSA and everyone else monitoring the web. Why not pop round for a cup of tea to break the monotony?
    PPS Please do not kick the door down the landlord is innocent.

  5. Andy Smith

    PS Hello to all the boys and girls at GCHQ MI5 MI6 NSA and everyone else monitoring the web. Why not pop round for a cup of tea to break the monotony?

    My door is unlocked too, and being housebound, I do get lonely. Would be nice if the eavesdroppers said “Hi” from time to time.

  6. Andy Arden

    I think that the concept of keeping us safe is a good one. However, how come it means that for a few, the whole of society is thrown into the same surveillance box.
    Surely with the police using so much “intelligence” then the need to have access to all is not needed ? ?

  7. Alan

    This is rather akin to asking the burglar of your house to admit to what they have stolen. Transparency isn’t the issue, spying is the issue.

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