ARTICLE 19 has raised concerns about proposals for an increase in the number of public institutions who can access communications data collected under the UK’s extreme surveillance law, the Investigatory Powers Act.
Head of Europe and Central Asia, Sarah Clarke said:
“The Investigatory Powers Act is one of the most extreme surveillance laws ever passed by a democratic state. Under this law, internet service providers and mobile phone companies are compelled to collect data about their customers web browsing, email and phone activity, and store this data for 12 months.
“Government proposals to increase the number of public bodies that can access this data is the kind of mission creep that ARTICLE 19 warned about when the Investigatory Powers Act was passed in 2016.
“The UK must not use the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to expand its snooping regime with minimal scrutiny.”
The five public bodies that will be able to access the data are: the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, the Environment Agency, the Insolvency Service, the UK National Authority for Counter Eavesdropping and the Pensions Regulator. The proposals are outlined in a statutory instrument that will be laid before parliament.
In a memorandum published alongside the proposed changes, the Government argues that the changes are necessary because these authorities, “are increasingly unable to rely on local police forces to investigate crimes on their behalf.”
It is not clear why this is the case and whether this relates to police forces being occupied with enforcing new regulations related to the coronavirus pandemic.
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