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Academic letter re changes in surveillance law

An Open Letter from 39 Academics addressed to UK MPs calling for greater Parliamentary oversight of government surveillance laws.

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Academic letter re changes in surveillance law

  1. 1. An  open  letter  to  all  members  of  the  House  of  Commons,       Dear  Parliamentarian,     Ensuring  the  Rule  of  Law  and  the  democratic  process  is  respected  as  UK   surveillance  law  is  revised     Actions  Taken  Under  the  Previous  Government     During  the  past  two  years,  the  United  Kingdom’s  surveillance  laws  and  policies   have  come  under  scrutiny  as  the  increasingly  expansive  and  intrusive  powers  of   the  state  have  been  revealed  and  questioned  in  the  media.  Such  introspection  is   healthy  for  any  democracy.  However,  despite  a  need  for  transparency  in  all  areas   of   lawmaking,   and   in   particular   in   areas   of   controversy,   the   previous   Government   repeatedly   resisted   calls   for   an   open   and   transparent   assessment   and  critique  of  UK  surveillance  powers.  Instead,  in  response  to  legal  challenges,  it   extended   the   powers   of   the   state   in   the   guise   of   draft   Codes   of   Practice   and   “clarifying  amendments.”  As  we  welcome  a  new  Government  we  expect  another   round  of  revisions  to  UK  surveillance  laws,  with  the  likelihood  that  the  Queen’s   Speech  will  signal  a  revival  of  the  Communications  Data  Bill.  At  this  time  we  call   on   the   new   Government,   and   the   members   of   the   House,   to   ensure   that   any   changes   in   the   law,   and   especially   any   expansions   of   power,   are   fully   and   transparently  vetted  by  Parliament,  and  open  to  consultation  from  the  public  and   all  relevant  stakeholders.     Last  year,  in  response  to  the  introduction  of  the  Data  Retention  and  Investigatory   Powers   Bill   (“DRIP”),   a   number   of   leading   academics   in   the   field   –   including   many  of  the  signatories  to  this  letter  –  called  for  full  and  proper  parliamentary   scrutiny   of   the   Bill   to   ensure   Parliamentarians   were   not   misled   as   to   what   powers   it   truly   contained.   Our   concern   emanated   from   the   Home   Secretary’s   attempt   to   characterise   the   Bill,   which   substantially   expanded   investigatory   powers,  as  merely  a  re-­‐affirmation  of  the  pre-­‐existing  data  retention  regime.1       Since  that  letter  was  written,  it  has  become  apparent  that  the  introduction  of  the   DRIP   Bill   was   not   the   only   time   an   expansion   of   surveillance   powers   was   presented  in  a  way  seemingly  designed  to  stifle  robust  democratic  consideration.   In  February  2015,  the  Home  Office  published  the  draft  Equipment  Interference   Code   of   Practice.2  The   draft   Code   was   the   first   time   the   intelligence   services   openly  sought  specific  authorisation  to  hack  computers  both  within  and  outside   the   UK.   Hacking   is   a   much   more   intrusive   form   of   surveillance   than   any   previously  authorised  by  Parliament.  It  also  threatens  the  security  of  all  internet   services   as   the   tools   intelligence   services   use   to   hack   can   create   or   maintain   security  vulnerabilities  that  may  be  used  by  criminals  to  commit  criminal  acts   and  other  governments  to  invade  our  privacy.  The  Government,  though,  sought   to  authorise  its  hacking,  not  through  primary  legislation  and  full  Parliamentary   consideration,  but  via  a  Code  of  Practice.       The  previous  Government  also  introduced  an  amendment  via  the  Serious  Crimes   Act   2015,   described   in   the   explanatory   notes   to   the   Bill   as   a   ‘clarifying   amendment’.3  The   amendment   effectively   exempts   the   police   and   intelligence  
  2. 2. services  from  criminal  liability  for  hacking.  This  has  had  an  immediate  impact  on   the   ongoing   litigation   of   several   organisations   who   are   suing   the   Government   based  in  part  on  the  law  amended,  the  Computer  Misuse  Act  1990.4       The  Way  Ahead     The  new  Conservative  Government  has  announced  its  intention  to  propose  new   surveillance   powers   through   a   resurrection   of   the   Communications   Data   Bill.   This   will   require   internet   and   mobile   phone   companies   to   keep   records   of   customers’  browsing  activity,  social  media  use,  emails,  voice  calls,  online  gaming   and   text   messages   for   a   year,   and   to   make   that   information   available   to   the   government  and  security  services.  We  also  anticipate  this  Parliament  will  see  a   review   of   the   Regulation   of   Investigatory   Powers   Act   2000,   which   currently   regulates   much   of   the   Government’s   surveillance   powers.   The   Independent   Reviewer   of   Terrorism   Legislation,   David   Anderson   QC,   has   conducted   an   independent   review   of   the   operation   and   regulation   of   investigatory   powers,   with   specific   reference   to   the   interception   of   communications   and   communications  data.  The  report  of  that  review  has  been  submitted  to  the  Prime   Minister,  but  has  yet  to  be  made  public:  when  it  is  made  public,  parliamentary   scrutiny   of   the   report   and   any   recommendations   made   following   it   will   be   essential.     As  the  law  requires  that  surveillance  powers  must  be  employed  proportionate  to   any  harm  to  privacy  caused  (as  required  by  Article  8  of  the  European  Convention   on  Human  Rights  and  Article  12  of  the  Universal  Declaration  of  Human  Rights)   we  believe  that  any  expansion  or  change  to  the  UK’s  surveillance  powers  should   be  proposed  in  primary  legislation  and  clearly  and  accurately  described  in  the   explanatory  notes  of  any  Bill.  The  Bill  and  its  consequences  must  then  be  fully   and   frankly   debated   in   Parliament.   When   reaching   an   assessment   of   the   proportionality,  of  any  measure  that  restricts  rights,  both  our  domestic  courts   and  the  European  Court  of  Human  Rights  place  great  stock  on  the  degree  and   quality  of  Parliamentary  involvement  prior  to  any  measure  being  adopted.  If  the   matter  ever  came  to  before  the  courts  one  issue  examined  would  be  the  nature  of   any  “exacting  review”  undertaken  by  MPs  into  the  necessity  of  extending  these   powers.  The  Government  should  not  be  permitted  to  surreptitiously  change  the   law  whenever  it  so  desires,  especially  where  such  changes  put  our  privacy  and   security  at  risk.     This  letter  has  been  prepared  and  signed  by  38  academic  researchers.  We  are   comprised   of   people   from   both   sides   of   this   issue   -­‐   those   who   believe   that   increased  powers  are  a  reasonable  response  to  an  emerging  threat,  and  those   who  think  them  an  unjustified  extension  of  state  interference.  Our  common  goal   is  to  see  the  Rule  of  Law  applied  and  Parliamentary  oversight  reasserted.  We  are   calling  on  all  members  of  the  House  of  Commons,  new  and  returning,  and  of  all   political  persuasions  to  support  us  in  this  by  ensuring  Parliamentary  scrutiny  is   applied  to  all  developments  in  UK  surveillance  laws  and  powers  as  proposed  by   the  current  Government.           Signatories    
  3. 3. Andrew  Murray  (contact  signatory)   Paul  Bernal  (contact  signatory)   Professor  of  Law   London  School  of  Economics     Lecturer  in  Information  Technology,   Intellectual  Property  and  Media  Law   University  of  East  Anglia     Anne  Barron     Associate  Professor  of  Law   London  School  of  Economics     Subhajit  Basu   Associate  Professor  of  Law   University  of  Leeds     Sally  Broughton  Micova   Deputy  Director  LSE  Media  Policy   Project,  Department  of  Media  and   Communications   London  School  of  Economics       Abbe  E.L.  Brown   Senior  Lecturer   School  of  Law   University  of  Aberdeen     Ian  Brown   Professor  of  Information  Security  and   Privacy   Oxford  Internet  Institute   Ray  Corrigan   Senior  Lecturer  in  Maths,  Computing   and  Technology   Open  University     Angela  Daly     Postdoctoral  Research  Fellow   Swinburne  Institute  for  Social  Research   Swinburne  University  of  Technology   Richard  Danbury   Postdoctoral  Research  Fellow   Faculty  of  Law   University  of  Cambridge     Catherine  Easton   Lecturer  in  Law   Lancaster  University  School  of  Law     Lilian  Edwards     Professor  of  E-­‐Governance   Strathclyde  University   Andres  Guadamuz   Senior  Lecturer  in  Intellectual  Property   Law   University  of  Sussex     Edina  Harbinja   Lecturer  in  Law   University  of  Hertfordshire     Julia  Hörnle   Professor  in  Internet  Law   Queen  Mary  University  of  London   Argyro  P  Karanasiou   Senior  Lecturer  in  Law   Centre  for  Intellectual  Property,  Policy  &   Management  (CIPPM)   Bournemouth  University     Theodore  Konstadinides   Senior  Lecturer  in  Law   University  of  Surrey     Douwe  Korff   Emeritus  Professor  of  International  Law   London  Metropolitan  University   Associate  of  the  Oxford  Martin  School,   University  of  Oxford     Mark  Leiser   Postgraduate  Researcher     Strathclyde  University   Orla  Lynskey   Assistant  Professor  of  Law   London  School  of  Economics  
  4. 4.     Daithi  Mac  Sithigh   Reader  in  Law   Newcastle  Law  School   Robin  Mansell     Professor,  Department  of  Media  and   Communication     London  School  of  Economics     Chris  Marsden     Professor  of  Law   University  of  Sussex     David  Mead   Professor  of  UK  Human  Rights  Law     UEA  Law  School   University  of  East  Anglia     Steve  Peers   Professor  of  Law   University  of  Essex     Gavin  Phillipson   Professor,  Law  School   University  of  Durham     Julia  Powles   Researcher   Faculty  of  Law   University  of  Cambridge     Andrew  Puddephatt   Executive  Director     Global  Partners  Digital   Judith  Rauhofer   Lecturer  in  IT  Law   University  of  Edinburgh     Chris  Reed   Professor  of  Electronic  Commerce  Law   Queen  Mary  University  of  London       Felipe  Romero-­‐Moreno   Lecturer  in  Law   University  of  Hertfordshire     Burkhard  Schafer   Professor  of  Computational  Legal   Theory   University  of  Edinburgh     Joseph  Savirimuthu     Senior  Lecturer  in  Law   University  of  Liverpool     Andrew  Scott   Associate  Professor  of  Law   London  School  of  Economics     Peter  Sommer     Visiting  Professor   Cyber  Security  Centre,  De  Montfort   University       Gavin  Sutter   Senior  Lecturer  in  Media  Law   Queen  Mary  University  of  London       Judith  Townend   Director  of  the  Centre  for  Law  and   Information  Policy     Institute  of  Advanced  Legal  Studies     University  of  London     Asma  Vranaki   Post-­‐Doctoral  Researcher  in  Cloud   Computing   Queen  Mary  University  of  London   Lorna  Woods   Professor  of  Law   University  of  Essex        
  5. 5.                                                                                                                 1     2   3   4