Are you sitting comfortably?
If you are reading this blog the chances are you are using an electronic device, a computer, a mobile phone, or possibly a tablet? You may be sat in the comfort of your own home, be at work, in a café or on public transport? Wherever you are and whatever device you are using, I can guarantee you one thing - you are potentially being watched!
The Edward Snowden revelations exposed the possibility that state surveillance may have intruded into the lives of UK citizens. The UK's intelligence agency GCHQ may have subjected people to blanket surveillance through its secret programme called Tempora.
We at Amnesty were so concerned about this that we issued a claim against the UK government over concerns that our communications have been unlawfully accessed by the intelligence services.
The complaint was made to the secretive Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). This shady body is the only one that deals with complaints about the Intelligence Services. Earlier this month The Guardian reported that the IPT is secretly operating from a base within the Home Office, so much for impartiality!
It would appear that slowly our politicians are beginning to wake up to this serious issue and daring to ask questions of the intelligence establishment.
Recently the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg has spoken of his concerns regarding the effectiveness of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) and the IPT. In a recent speech he argued that greater transparency was needed at the IPT and that the ISC needed reforming as it is widely seen as being too deferential to the bodies it scrutinises. Ed Miliband has also expressed his concern that the current system is flawed that it needs to be reviewed.
Clegg has tasked the defence and security think tank, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) to convene an independent panel of experts with backgrounds in technology, civil liberties, and intelligence to report back after the 2015 General Election.
It's evident that these bodies must be subject to robust scrutiny and along with other organisations, we will be watching with interest to see how the RUSI initiative develops.
Don't Spy On Us campaign
In the meantime we have signed up to the Don't Spy On Us campaign which is calling for an inquiry to report on the extent to which the law has failed to protect the privacy of UK citizens and failed to hold the intelligence services accountable.
The campaign outlines six key principles to put an end to mass surveillance:
- No surveillance without suspicion
- Transparent laws, not secret laws
- Judicial not political authorisation
- Effective democratic oversight
- The right to redress
- A secure web for all
Don't Spy On Us comes at a critical time and it's important that YOU get behind it to ensure that there is sustained pressure on all of our politicians to ensure that the Intelligence Services are held accountable and are striking the right balance between privacy and security.
Follow Allan Hogarth on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@hogihogarth