Web Snooping Powers Are ‘Undemocratic’
In the report, terror law expert David Anderson QC said that the government needed to do more to prove why security services should be able to monitor our web browsing histories for two years – as has been mooted.
He said that judges, rather than political figures, should issue warrants for interception.
And he recommended that they should lead a new oversight body – the Independent Surveillance and Intelligence Committee – to monitor activity.
Bulk surveillance should be more targeted and better overseen – but will continue.
:: Read the full report by clicking here
Mr Anderson said: “The current law is fragmented, obscure, under constant challenge and variable in the protections that it affords the innocent. It is time for a clean slate.”
Home Secretary Theresa May, in a speech to Parliament, said: “As (he) makes clear it is imperative that the use of sensitive powers are overseen and fully declared under arrangements set by Parliament. It is right that Parliament has the opportunity to debate those arrangements.”
:: What data does is currently intercepted and accessible to UK authorities?
The UK Government can access the content of communications – text messages, emails – with a warrant signed by the Secretary of State.
Communications data – when and with whom your are communicating – can be accessed under RIPA, which is signed off by police forces.
:: How is this data gathered?
Much of the communications data is gathered through bulk interception – trawling the internet for huge amounts of communication, which is then sifted for analysis.
Intercepted communications are handed over by phone companies or by internet companies like Facebook, at the request of the authorities. Currently, the latter is done on a voluntary basis.
:: Is everyone under surveillance, or only specific targets?
Tricky! Not everyone is being monitored the whole time – GCHQ is not reading the emails of everyone in the country. However, many innocent people’s communications data is swept up by bulk intelligence.
Bulk interception may be applied to the communications of specific targets to see who they’re communicating with.
:: Who has access to it?
Lots of government bodies, but it’s most important to the work of the security services and police.
:: Is there proof that access to this data has stopped any terror attacks?
The security services and police say bulk interception is vital. 55% of the intelligence that GCHQ provides comes from bulk interception of communications data, according to the Anderson review.
The security services and police say that bulk interception has stopped terror attacks and other serious crime.
:: Who currently oversees this system, and are there any safeguards?
There are a variety of bodies, with the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee the most prominent.
The Anderson reports suggests the creation of a new, overarching body called the Independent Surveillance and Intelligence committee, headed by a judge, not a politician.
:: Why was this report commissioned?
It was a condition of emergency legislation passed last year by the government to compel phone companies to keep records for two years, after the European Court of Justice said that the existing European law was in fact unlawful.
:: What are the next steps for his recommendations?
The government will publish its draft surveillance bill – the so-called snooper’s charter – in the autumn. It will take into account Anderson’s recommendations although they are just that: recommendations. There’s no guarantee they will become law.