Government Responds to the Public’s Concern Over the Snooper’s Charter

The UK government has officially responded to the public’s concern regarding the Investigatory Powers Act, a.k.a. the Snooper’s Charter, downplaying the threat it will impose upon their privacy and personal rights.

A parliamentary petition against the Snooper’s Charter was set up recently, with it swiftly attracting over 140,000 signatures. As is required when a petition reaches 100,000 signatures, a potential repeal was discussed by the UK parliament, though its threat against the public’s online security was downplayed. In a response delivered to the petition’s signatories, the government wrote: “The Government has adopted an open and consultative approach throughout the passage of this legislation, tabling or accepting a significant number of amendments in both Houses of Parliament in order to improve transparency and strengthen privacy protections. These included enhanced protections for trade unions and journalistic and legally privileged material, and the introduction of a threshold to ensure internet connection records cannot be used to investigate minor crimes.”

Specifically discussing concerns regarding the public’s privacy, the government statement continued: “The Government has placed privacy at the heart of the Investigatory Powers Act. The Act makes clear the extent to which investigatory powers may be used and the strict safeguards that apply in order to maintain privacy.

“A new overarching ‘privacy clause’ was added to make absolutely clear that the protection of privacy is at the heart of this legislation. This privacy clause ensures that in each and every case a public authority must consider whether less intrusive means could be used, and must have regard to human rights and the particular sensitivity of certain information. The powers can only be exercised when it is necessary and proportionate to do so, and the Act includes tough sanctions – including the creation of new criminal offences – for those misusing the powers.

The safeguards in this Act reflect the UK’s international reputation for protecting human rights. The unprecedented transparency and the new safeguards – including the ‘double lock’ for the most sensitive powers – set an international benchmark for how the law can protect both privacy and security.”

The government’s suggestion that the public’s privacy is “at the heart” of this bill contradicts the wording of the bill itself, which despite its aforementioned revisions still poses a great threat to online security as a result of making the public more vulnerable to cyber attacks. Alongside the 24/7 logging of our collective internet browsing history, an overlooked part of the bill in section 217 also insists that ISPs, telecommunication and communications companies allow the government to have backdoor access to their products and services. This effectively means that the government has required these companies to weaken their security in order to let them infiltrate it at a moment’s notice, thus making it far easier for hackers to access and gather the data held by these companies.

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