UK mass surveillance bill becomes law
UK mass surveillance bill becomes law

[JURIST] The UK’s Investigatory Powers Bill [text, PDF] was given royal assent and became law on Tuesday. The bill gives the UK’s intelligence agency a wide variety of tools to monitor the online activity of all UK citizens. The bill will require Internet providers and phone companies in the UK to retain logs of every citizen’s communications and online activity in a massive database for one year. The bill makes it lawful [legislative materials] for authorities to access communications data without judicial approval, except to uncover journalistic sources. The government defined communications data as “the context, but not the content of a communication.” It also allows for targeted equipment interference (EI), accessing specific devices such as mobile phones and computers, with the approvals of a law enforcement chief and judicial commissioner. Another section allows agencies to seek communications data or EI in bulk by applying for a warrant. The bill’s supporters argue [Reuters report] that the bill is necessary for enforcement agencies to keep up with the rapid technological advancements being made all over the world. Critics of the bill, however, have already began circulating a petition [official petition] calling for it to be repealed. The petition is nearing 140,000 signatures, passing the 100,000 signature threshold required to compel a discussion on the matter by Parliament.

Data collection and government surveillance continues to be a contentious issue worldwide since Edward Snowden revealed [JURIST report] the scale of bulk data collection in the US and the UK in 2013. Earlier this month a federal judge rejected [JURIST report] the New York Police Department’s proposed settlement of a lawsuit accusing the department of improperly surveying the Muslim community. In February the US Department of Justice filed a motion to compel [JURIST report] Apple to unlock the encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters. In January the Ontario Superior Court ruled [JURIST report] that police orders requiring telecommunications companies to hand over cellphone user data breached the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Last November the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an order allowing the NSA to continue compiling telephone records of a California-based law firm, just one week after a federal judge ruled [JURIST reports] against the part of the agency’s surveillance program involving the bulk collection of domestic phone records.