by Graham Pierrepoint
The UK government’s plans to allow certain bodies to access certain data on people’s private phone and internet use – in an effort to prevent crime such as terrorism and child abuse – have long been seen as controversial, even by those who work with the government on other matters. The move to make certain private records public to various bodies has been criticised – and while some powers will remain in what has been nicknamed the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’, it seems that a considerable cutback will prevent the police from accessing certain records without authorization.
Late changes to the law appear to prevent senior police staff from accessing personal records belonging to UK citizens, meaning that they will no longer be able to grant themselves authority to read or use such material. It’s a move that is believed to be moving in line with a ruling made by the European Court of Justice – though it has been made clear that ‘national security is outside the scope of EU law’. To this end, it appears that certain retention and acquisition plans will hold firm as initially proposed.
What changes to the law also herald is that access requests for such data will only be restricted to those crimes likely to carry jail terms of more than six months. This move, therefore, seems to be making the controversial law a little fairer – though those concerned about privacy and the governmental decision to require Internet Service Providers to retain browsing records may feel that there is still a long road ahead. One of the critics of the law, David Davis, advised that moves to collecting such data was effectively ‘treating the entire nation as suspect’. The Brexit Secretary is, of course, currently embroiled in talks with the European Union regarding the divorce between the UK and the EU in the coming years.
Watch: The 'Snoopers' Charter': Assessing Britain's new mass surveillance powers (Euronews Insiders)
Britain’s plans to retain communications data for what appear to be in the interest of preventing illegal activity have been hailed by some and are continuing to face opposition by others – many of whom are concerned about the future of private data in the face of government control continue to worry about quite where the Snoopers’ Charter will lead. For now, at least, a cutback has been made – and the government is keen to assert that the law is in place to protect innocent citizens.