Surveillance across the UK has reached a point that the authorities can now gain access to personal data without any evidence to justify their investigation, says Aziz Rahman, Senior Partner at Rahman Ravelli.
At the end of last year, The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (IPA) came into effect. The Act, with its increased data collection powers, is said to be the most invasive security measure the UK has ever seen – and yet, for all its seriousness, it was passed with barely a batted eyelid in response.
According to a recent survey conducted by serious and corporate crime defence specialists, Rahman Ravelli, over three-quarters (76 per cent) of the UK public are unaware of these latest surveillance measures, what they mean for their human rights, how they affect their day-to-day lives or the steps they should take if they are ever suspected of wrongdoing.
Alarmingly, the survey also shows a lack of awareness about the IPA across the board; from teenagers and young adults to CEOs and other leaders in the corporate world. This is surprising given that many of those surveyed are native to the internet; more likely to be active on social media and, therefore, familiar with digital technology. This suggests more could be done on these channels to spread awareness of the changes and the issues they raise.
But, more fundamentally, the Act has serious and far-reaching implications for human rights in the UK, so much so that it has earned itself the unflattering moniker of the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’. Not only does the Act strengthen measures that had existed before, it extends its reach to communications companies who are now compelled to hand over customer data at the behest of the UK intelligence agencies. It also provides better and more sophisticated technology to hack into computer systems, devices and shared networks.
Given the seriousness and the overwhelming lack of awareness among the British public, particularly young adults, it’s vital that more is done to make these groups aware of their ‘digital footprint’.
The Act gives the authorities virtually-unlimited sanction to access your browsing history, online habits and more – all without any evidence of wrongdoing.
Troublingly, though, rather than provoking mass civil unrest, the public seem to have been overcome by a blanket of apathy.
Some groups are at greater risk than others due to their existing circumstances. Millennials are particularly vulnerable, for example. According to fraud prevention service Cifas, last year saw a 34 per cent rise in under-21s falling victim to fraud as a result of poor security measures.
Elsewhere, a Go Compare survey found that 86 per cent of 18-24 year olds inadvertently share personal data on social media, which can then be used against them. From weak passwords (pets’ names were the most common) to lax financial habits, young people are already leaving themselves open.
Young people are at danger from all angles. They are vulnerable to hackers as well as the UK intelligence agencies, but because they’ve grown up with the internet, they have often become complacent.
It all starts with resources and information. Being aware of what the Investigatory Powers Act means for your human rights is the first step. Protect yourself, and take care what you post online.
With such far-reaching changes made to surveillance in the UK, it’s vital we’re as informed as possible and get to the heart of what government jargon really means for us.
One of the main conditions of the Act dictates that internet and communications service providers must store top-level information about UK citizens’ browsing habits for a period of 12 months. It is because of such far-reaching measures that the Act has earned itself the title of the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’.
With this in force, a little under 50 authorities – from the Met Police to the Ministry of Defence – will be able to build a detailed picture of individuals according to their browsing history. With the help of internet connection records (ICR’s), intelligence agencies will gather information based on the websites we visit rather than the specific web pages or what is done on them.
Google and Microsoft are just two of the large-scale corporations that have spoken out against the Act, claiming that storing vast amounts of information could have “far reaching implications – for our customers, for your own citizens and for the future of the global technology industry”.
If you are a business-owner, CEO or are otherwise responsible for the data retention policies at work, then this is something you will encounter. It pays to be informed and to ensure that your processes with the UK authorities are clear and well-communicated.