Open Rights Group Report: “Digital Surveillance”

The Open Rights Group have recently released “Digital Surveillance – Why the Snoopers’ Charter is the wrong approach: A call for targeted and accountable investigatory powers”. The report sets out various arguments as to why the proposed Communications Data Bill in the UK, which aims to massively extend the scope of surveillance over online communications, is a terrible, counterproductive, expensive, and unnecessary idea.

I was asked to contribute a section on the risks of the existing proposals, and some thoughts on where things should go in the future. My contribution is reproduced here, but please do go and download the full report.

Where laws intersect with technology, as is strikingly the case with surveillance, the discrepancy between the pace of technological change and the pace of legal change requires lawmakers to consider carefully the risks that arise from the future development and application of technologies. Crucially, and challengingly, it is necessary to differentiate between the limitations that exist in current technologies, and will disappear as technology develops; and those limitations that are fixed and inherent.

Information technologies, and in particular the Internet, have expanded the potential for surveillance to a degree that would have seemed fantastical in previous decades. Unprecedented levels of data can now be collected, stored, and analysed, and can be combined and controlled with an amazing degree of centrality.

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