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Sindi Mules looks at increased surveillance and the Investigatory Powers Act 2016

Sindi Mules, Partner has contributed to an article in the online magazine Lawyer Monthly.
This issue looks at the increased vigilance, bans and restrictions on internet use and whether or not this is something the public will oppose. Sindi examines the need for the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 which came into force last December.  She comments:-
“According to YouGov statistics a sizeable proportion of UK citizens is not opposed to surveillance and favours increased level of surveillance. As we struggle to come to terms with the barbarity of the event in Manchester, the question of the need for increased vigilance is sharply brought into focus.
Vigilance comes in many shapes and sizes. What about internet surveillance and bans and restrictions on internet use?
The introduction of The Investigatory Powers Act 2016, termed the ‘Snooper’s Charter’, has thrust this debate into the limelight. The Act came into force on 30 December 2016 as an emergency replacement for expiring previous legislation. It was passed despite objections from a host of major technology players, privacy advocates and academics.
The provisions of the Act extend the powers available beyond the ability to retain data. It provides powers to access and control electronic devices, intercept electronic communications, listen in on calls, retain and hand over records of such online activity, e-mails and calls to other agencies and link these databases between bodies. These actions do not require suspicions of involvement in crimes and can be utilised against any ordinary member of the public.
It is seen as an attempt to bolster security forces and protect the public but it has also been described by its critics as “the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy.
The public appears to be confused about the powers the Government and associated bodies may or may not have to monitor online activity and to store information gleaned. Statistics, provided by an online technology player, show that 76% of those interviewed are unaware of the powers available, with 33% believing that the Government has no powers to monitor online activity. When people are informed of the powers which the Government can utilise, the reaction is negative and one of shock.
It is often said that if you are doing nothing wrong and have nothing to hide then you have nothing to worry about, nonetheless 59% of people interviewed said that they would not provide consent to the Government or associated third parties to view their digital activity.
There is a balance to be struck between the need for protection and the rights to privacy. If the operation of the legislation aimed to protect the public is found to be oppressive by those it aims to protect, then has the balance not been lost?”
To read the full article click here.