The UK Must Take Time to Get Surveillance Laws Right

Cyber Politics

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the UK’s draft Investigatory Powers Bill and the criticism that the Bill fails to address concerns about its potential for abuse and lack of oversight. This criticism has been handed down by three joint committees, and we at F-Secure couldn’t agree more.

Now, we’ve got a chance to put our name to it. A letter organized by Don’t Spy on Us asks the Government not to rush the Bill through Parliament, and it’s signed by our own Erka Koivunen on behalf of F-Secure. Also signing are well over a hundred politicians, academics and leaders of journalistic and privacy organizations, some of whom joined Erka in giving expert evidence to the Joint Committee in December.

The UK’s Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 expires in December and the Government intends to get a new bill rushed through this year in its place. But the signers of the letter agree that a longer consultation period is needed to work on the flawed bill, which has such far-reaching consequences to British society and its standing on the world stage.

“No one is satisfied with the bill’s wording as it is now,” says Erka. “There are so many fundamental changes proposed. The bill needs a complete redraft, which I doubt the Government can do on their constrained schedule. No one expects the Government to be able to provide the needed level of scrutiny in the time they have set for themselves. And they definitely won’t get the public’s buy-in.”

That’s why the letter requests that the expiring powers to give law enforcement access to data be dealt with as a separate Bill, allowing enough time (until next year) for a properly drafted Investigatory Powers Act to be passed.

“Surveillance is a global concern, and this new law, if done right, could lead the world,” states the letter. Erka agrees.

“Whatever the UK Government does, this will be a worldwide precedence,” he says. “It can be something that others follow, or that others will be appalled by. It can be a good law, or, if rushed, a bad piece of legislation that nationals and foreigners alike will hate.”

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