The draft investigatory powers bill, also known as the Snoopers’ Charter, will grant new surveillance powers to police and security services if passed, allowing them to track every UK citizen’s use of the internet without any judicial check: their browsing histories, messages, and so on.
The bill is overwhelmingly undemocratic. The surveillance activities will be immune from legal due process. For example, no questions can be asked during any legal proceeding that might indicate that surveillance has occurred. This is presumably to guarantee that the general public don’t learn the degree to which we are being watched and followed. Government orders to tech companies to hand over their data, and their customer’s data, will always be accompanied by a gagging order.
In other words, companies will not be able to reveal they have handed over data to the police or government. Criminal sanctions are in place to punish whistleblowers, not to check abuse of their powers by police and security services. Nor do orders need a warrant, granted by the court, in all cases. There is no in-built requirement for judicial approval, orders can simply come from the government agency. We should always be worried when the government makes moves to makes it actions less accountable. The Snoopers’ Charter is couched in terms of counter-extremism, but the real threat facing the general public is an increasingly powerful, and unaccountable state.