THE BLOG

Have Your Say on the Future of Surveillance in the UK

04/12/2015 17:41 GMT | Updated 04/12/2016 10:12 GMT

A month ago the government published their proposals for the future of surveillance powers in the UK.

Legislation is never an enticing read, at almost 300 pages long and full of technical and legal language thedraft Investigatory Powers Bill is no exception. Because of this many of us will ignore its contents, but what it proposes will impact us all and for once we have all been given the chance to have our say.

The opportunity to express your views on government proposals isn't always that obvious, but the Home Secretary very publicly and repeatedly promised that a Joint Committee of MPs and Peers would be convened to "scrutinise" the draft Bill and report to Parliament on their findings.

After almost a month of waiting, the Joint Committee on the draft Investigatory Powers Bill was announced last week and the public consultation was opened. This means that any of us can write in and express our worries, concerns, fears or appreciation for the powers that the government want the police and spies to have. Unfortunately time is short, the deadline for submissions is the 21 December 2015.

To save you from having to read the draft Bill inside and out Big Brother Watch have published a number of factsheets outlining each of the powers; what they are, what they will do, who can use them and what threats they may pose to your security and your privacy.

As a taster of what you can expect to learn; there are calls to legalise the bulk collection of all our internet activity, weaken encryption, make it legal for the police or spies to hack into our phones and computers, allow them access to databases which we all appear on, and the intention to order telecommunication services to hold all of our internet activity for a year.

Most worryingly of all is that there will be no independent judicial authorisation of any of these powers. The "double lock" outlined by the Home Secretary is less of a lock and more of a rubber stamp. All a Judicial Commissioner will do is "review" a decision already taken by a Secretary of State. Not exactly independent and certainly not the strongest authorisation regime anywhere in the world" that Theresa May promised when presenting the draft Bill to Parliament.

Now that every aspect of our day to day lives is conducted online, our homes and cars are connected to the internet and data is the very life blood of society, it's no longer a case of nothing to hide nothing to fear. Because if we allow access to all this data to the police or to the spies, on nothing more than a flick of a Minister's pen and a nod of review from a politically appointed judge there simply won't be anywhere left to hide. Everything we do, everywhere we go, everything we say and write, will be accessible to the State and there will be nothing we can do to stop it.

Benjamin Franklin once said that there are two certainties in life: death and taxes. Should these proposals become law we will have to add surveillance to the list. Don't make surveillance the third certainty in life. Take a moment to read our factsheets, engage with the issue and write to the Joint Committee. Time is short but you have the opportunity to make your voice heard.

To read our Big Brother Watch draft Investigatory Powers Factsheets and learn more about how to submit your concerns to the Joint Committee please visit https://www.bigbrotherwatch.org.uk