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techUK Raise Internet Snooping Concerns Over UK IP Act Amendments

Friday, Mar 22nd, 2024 (2:35 pm) - Score 2,080
Internet and UK Telecoms Security Picture

Industry body techUK, which represents many of the UK’s key technology companies, and a broad range of stakeholders have today issued a joint statement that expresses concern about proposed changes under the Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Bill, not least their potential impact upon internet security and privacy.

The original 2016 Investigatory Powers Act (IPAct) introduced, among many other things, a new power that forced broadband ISPs and mobile operators – upon being ordered to do so by a senior judge – into logging the Internet Connection Records (ICR) of all their customers for up to 12 months (e.g. the IP addresses of the servers you’ve visited and when), which can be accessed without a full warrant and may occur regardless of whether or not you’re suspected of a crime.

NOTE: Obtaining the ‘content’ of a communication (i.e. the message you write) still required a warrant, but ICRs aren’t deemed to contain ‘content’.

However, at the end of last year the government warned that the “nature of the threats we face” had evolved since 2016 and as part of that they proposed to update the UK’s investigatory powers’ framework (here). The goal, they said, would be to enable the UK’s security and law enforcement agencies to stay up-to-date with new technologies.

On the one hand, the amendments included some good proposals to “strengthen independent judicial oversight“, while also putting a number of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s (IPC) functions on a statutory basis. But on the other hand, they also vaguely proposed to update the conditions for use of ICRs and to change the bulk personal dataset regime to ensure the UK’s intelligence agencies “can more effectively make use of less sensitive data“.

At present there’s still a lack of deeper detail about the changes. Nevertheless, techUK has today joined with various civil society organisations, academics and other think tanks to stress – via a Joint Statement – their “grave concerns about the Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Bill, and the limited opportunities for its scrutiny.” The statement sets out several key concerns.

techUK’s Concerns – Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Bill

➤ Weakened safeguards when intelligence services collect bulk datasets of personal information, potentially enabling the harvesting of millions of facial images and social media data;

➤ Expressly permitting the harvesting and processing of internet connection records for generalised, mass surveillance;

➤ Expanding the range of politicians who can authorise the surveillance of parliamentarians;

➤ Impeding companies’ ability to innovate and advance the data protection, data security, and data minimisation efforts expected by users, governments and regulators globally;

➤ Severely restricting the use of security enhancing technologies, resulting in the increased government intrusion of citizen confidentiality and privacy – a basic human right;

➤ Opening the door for indiscriminate, arbitrary interference with users who are not the targets, via the introduction of systemic vulnerabilities that would pose security and privacy risks;

➤ Making the UK the weak link in the chain of online security, with the UK-developed products and services becoming less appealing, because adopters will fear that they have been designed for Government access, and the UK will become a more appealing target for criminals and hostile nation states;

➤ Exacerbating and/or creating new conflicts of laws including with the vast body of digital regulation that has been introduced around the world since 2016, without clear mitigation plans. The UK would likely take issue with other countries passing similar laws that would influence the security of products that are used globally.

The statement also claims that the Government’s Impact Assessment has “failed to produce solid conclusions about the purported costs and benefits of the Bill“. This is said to raise questions about transparency and the evaluation process itself, which means Stakeholders are “left unable to effectively assess the overall impact of the legislation, in turn weakening accountability and oversight in the legislative process.”

Getting the original bill through parliament was a long and complex process, which also faced a number of legal challenges and amendments even after it became law. Updating the rules should be an easier task for the government than it was the first time, although clearly there are still significant concerns about the current direction of travel.

Supporters of the Joint Statement
Big Brother Watch
The Center for Democracy and Technology
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA)
Professor Angela Daly, University of Dundee
Dr Benjamin Dowling (Lecturer in Cybersecurity, University of Sheffield)
The Global Network Initiative (GNI)
Dr Tristan Henderson (School of Computer Science, University of St Andrews)
Professor Alice Hutchings, University of Cambridge
Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF)
Information Technology Industry Council (ITI)
Internet Society
Internet Society UK England Chapter
Liberty
OpenNet Korea
Open Rights Group
Privacy International
Startup Coalition
techUK
Dr Daniel R. Thomas (Computer & Information Sciences, University of Strathclyde)

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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
14 Responses
  1. Avatar photo john says:

    Unfortunately this government and the only credible alternative government have proven time and again they don’t care about our privacy or data security. This is not just “politicians don’t understand tech”, they know exactly what they are doing. They want the ability to snoop at will. A VPN based in a country with proper respect for privacy is really going to be the only way to protect ourselves from the government and from criminals. Sadly the number of countries that can be applied to is diminishing rapidly. Moreover, I wouldn’t be surprised to see VPN’s targeted next, as they are under other regimes further along in this process.

    1. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      You have to wonder who is pulling the politicians puppet strings. The real criminals can side step all of this with VPNs and the like, malevolent foreign governments can infiltrate us. So either our politicians are totally inept (which they are of course) or someone somewhere has a hidden agenda.

    2. Avatar photo RaptorX says:

      “This is not just “politicians don’t understand tech”, they know exactly what they are doing. They want the ability to snoop at will.”

      Exactly.

      I always hear arguments about politicians being out of touch with some issue or other, as if finally explaining it to them will make them understand and stop what they’re doing, or start what they should be doing. But that’s completely wrong. They know exactly they’re doing wrong and have their own hidden agendas for doing it. This is the face of corruption and it’s everywhere.

  2. Avatar photo Pro4TLZZ says:

    This will only get worse under the next labour government, at which point the opposition will exist in name only

    1. Avatar photo Random Precision says:

      Tory charlatans and crooks have been in power for 14 years that has brought us to this…….and you criticise Labour GTF!!

    2. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Government exists in name only at the moment so that’d be a step up.

    3. Avatar photo Clearmind60 says:

      They are as bad as each other. Taking back handers from foreign regimes and visiting them…. traitors.

    4. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Sorry, would you clarify please? You seem to have just stated that visiting foreign ‘regimes’ is traitorous?

    5. Avatar photo lulzs says:

      omg give it a rest. labour and tories are two sides of the same coin. Either you’re all broccoli haired zoomers, you have short memories, or (more likely) you’re just disingenous and will try to whitewash what Tony Blair and Gordon Brown did to the country during their time in power. i’m going to piss myself laughing at you labour lovers when your new gods don’t fix a thing even if we gave them 20 years. Watch it happen.

    6. Avatar photo jammie1408 says:

      @lulzs Exactly 1000% agreed.

    7. Avatar photo XGS says:

      No idea what you’re on about, lulz. I don’t see much ‘love’ in the comments only that they couldn’t be any worse. It’s hardly massive enthusiasm.

      At very least if they were less performative and less interested in gimmicks it’d be a step up. There’s no chance of any politicians achieving anything miraculous: as soon as politicians start being honest about the tradeoffs and costs that come with trying to turn the country around a bunch of people bury their heads in the sand and vote against them.

      If the country as a whole grows up then we might get some more positive solutions. For now we get the governments we deserve regardless of party affiliation: the ones that tell us what we want to hear at someone else’s expense.

  3. Avatar photo billy says:

    Countries with extreme online laws:

    Saudi Arabia
    Russian Federation
    United Kingdom

  4. Avatar photo Bob the builder. says:

    Government, the people who did things like lose disks with millions of UK residents personal data on trains, left laptops on trains with UK resident personal information, and now they make a flawed reckless ill thought out security bill, which is basically made so they can spy on you at will, no doubt at the bereft of the WEF.
    I dislike the idea of expanding how many MP’s can abuse this power too. It should only remain at the feet of a select few who must be trained to know and fully understand exactly what it means when they approve investigations.

    Still, I don’t personally trust a single thing out pathetic excuse for government does, lost that respect since when John Major took over.

  5. Avatar photo New_Londoner says:

    It’s ironic that the companies that indulge in surveillance capitalism complain about potential privacy intrusions by governments.

    And they cheerfully ignore the harms caused by the Internet in order to protect privacy as a human right. They apparently forgetting that privacy is in fact a qualified right unlike the other rights of victims of, for example CSAE, enabled by their applications.

Comments are closed

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