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Amnesty: Snoopers’ Charter Violates Basic Human Rights

Amnesty International has launched another broadside on the UK government, claiming that when it comes into force the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) could have “devastating consequences” for human rights.

The colloquially titled ‘Snoopers’ Charter’ was criticized during its passage through parliament by rights groups, technology and legal experts, three separate committees and even former NSA technical director, William Binney – all of whom the government and most opposition parties ignored.

Binney argued that the mass surveillance powers it enshrines are actually self-defeating for the security services, as there is simply too much information to sift through – meaning some terror suspects slip through the net.

Even the UN’s privacy tsar warned that the bill violated the basic human right to privacy and EU law.

His claims were partially substantiated after the European Court of Justice (CJEU) ruled in December that the forerunner of the IPA, known as DRIPA, was effectively illegal.

Amnesty argued that the law’s highly intrusive bulk surveillance and hacking powers are “lacking any requirement for individualized, reasonable suspicion” and as such violate basic human rights.

In its new report, Dangerously Disproportionate: The Ever-Expanding National Security State in Europe, it argued:

“All powers under the new law – both targeted and mass – will generally be authorized by a government minister after review by a quasi-judicial body composed of members appointed by the Prime Minister. This raises serious concern that the Act lacks provision for an independent authorization and oversight mechanism. Warrants would generally be issued by the Secretary of State (i.e. the Minister responsible for the security services), on a range of vague grounds such as the ‘interests of national security’ or the ‘economic well-being of the United Kingdom’.”

What’s more, judicial commissioners will not be able to fully assess the merits of applications for warrants, and in some cases will not be required to do so at all if the authorities decide the matter is urgent.

The security services can also add the names or people, places and organizations to warrants without the need for further review, Amnesty explained.

It’s also been argued that forcing ISPs to collect and store the web browsing records of the entire populace is a cybersecurity disaster waiting to happen if hackers get their hands on the data – which could prove to be a goldmine for extortionists.

Rafael Laguna, CEO of Open-Xchange, welcomed the report.

“The Snoopers’ Charter grants excessive powers to a government which has not consulted the tech community or considered the ramifications of bulk data collection,” he argued. “Without independent judicial oversight and warrants, these bulk data collection powers are the tools of a dictatorship.”

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