FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Investigatory Powers Bill and Privacy Protections in the UK

by

Since writing about the threat of iPhone privacy in the US and the UK in January, political lines have been drawn with Mark Zuckerberg siding with Apple and Bill Gates standing with the FBI in this ongoing debate. But how private is the information on our iPhones in the UK specifically?

Apple has been buttressing its claim in recent years that it sells products, not personal data like two of its competitors, Facebook and Google. A recent article in Macworld.co.uk, analyses privacy with Apple and Google and concludes that data is safer with Apple for the following reasons: the passcode on the iPhone locks out the user for one minute if the passcode is wrong for six tries and can be set to erase data if the passcode is wrong 10 times; the Touch ID fingerprint scanner; the Secure Enclave which “uses a secure boot system to ensure that it the code it runs can’t be modified”; Apple is demonstrating its commitment to user privacy by refusing to cooperate with the US government in unlocking iPhones (in large part because with the latest technology, Apple cannot break into the iPhone); and Google has demonstrated in the past that it is hostile to user privacy.

In the UK Apple has likewise let its position related to privacy be known: “Apple has never worked with any government agency from any country to create a “backdoor” in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed any government access to our servers. And we never will.” Conversely, a recent poll has shown that the majority of the general public (60%) in the UK is actually supportive of measures where the government should be able to monitor communications in questions of national security in a poll conducted by Comparitech.com: “[T]he study found that 49 percent of the 1000 people questioned from the UK (nationally representative) cite national security as having more importance than an individual’s right to privacy.”

Of all the actors in media and communications, Amar Singh, chair of ISACA, a UK security advisory group, finds these results troubling, especially when “so many are willing to sacrifice their civil liberties and privacy for claims of protection. Let’s not forget that no government has a stellar record in protecting their own information and if technologies are updated to allow ‘free access’ for the government, then criminals will no doubt be able to obtain the same.” And the Information Commissioner’s Office, the government watchdog criticised the internet connection records that would be revealed, “Although these are portrayed as conveying limited information about an individual they can, in reality, go much further and can reveal a great deal about the behaviours and activities of an individual.”

On the other side of this argument, the UK government has expressed that it does not want backdoors to encrypted messages but instead is asking that companies decrypt messages on demand. This is a contradictory policy as the government is expressing two antithetical ideas about privacy: we respect privacy, except when we do not. The Investigatory Powers Bill, also called the “Snoopers’ Charter,” will be introduced into the House of Commons this week. Home Secretary Theresa May has recently been accused of trying to rush through this problematic surveillance law before the EU referendum later this year. May, who is overseeing the creation of the IP Bill, witnessed similar changes blunted in 2012; nevertheless she now proposes 86 changes to the current spying laws. Recently May told a group of MPs and Lords that companies would be obliged to remove electronic protection on information when a warrant is issued.

Lord Strasburger, a Liberal Democrat peer who sat on the joint committee, criticised the bill stating: “The real reason is that although the Home Office pretends it wants a mature public debate, actually it does not like having to justify what would be the most intrusive snooping powers any Western government has into its citizens’ private lives.”

As American citizens discovered after 9/11 and more recently with the NSA files, the line between personal privacy and public safety is inscrutable when the politics that determine this line are constantly shifting.

Julian Vigo is a scholar, film-maker and human rights consultant. Her latest book is Earthquake in Haiti: The Pornography of Poverty and the Politics of Development (2015). She can be reached at: julian.vigo@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 29, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
No Laughing Matter: The Manchester Bomber is the Spawn of Hillary and Barack’s Excellent Libyan Adventure
Vijay Prashad
The Afghan Toll
Melvin Goodman
The Washington Post’s Renewed Attack on Whistlblowers
Robert Fisk
We Must Look to the Past, Not ISIS, for the True Nature of Islam
Dean Baker
A Tax on Wall Street Trading is the Best Solution to Income Inequality
Lawrence Davidson
Reality and Its Enemies
Harry Hobbs
Australia’s Time to Recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Sovereignty
Ray McGovern
Will Europe Finally Rethink NATO’s Costs?
Cesar Chelala
Poetry to the Rescue of America’s Soul
Andrew Stewart
Xi, Trump and Geopolitics
Binoy Kampmark
The Merry Life of Dragnet Surveillance
Stephen Martin
The Silent Apartheid: Militarizing Architecture & Infrastructure
Weekend Edition
May 26, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Swamp Politics, Trump Style: “Russiagate” Diverts From the Real White House Scandals
Paul Street
It’s Not Gonna Be Okay: the Nauseating Nothingness of Neoliberal Capitalist and Professional Class Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
The ICEmen Cometh
Ron Jacobs
The Deep State is the State
Pete Dolack
Why Pence Might be Even Worse Than Trump
Patrick Cockburn
We Know What Inspired the Manchester Attack, We Just Won’t Admit It
Thomas Powell
The Dirty Secret of the Korean War
Mark Ashwill
The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position
John Davis
Beyond Hope
Uri Avnery
The Visitation: Trump in Israel
Ralph Nader
The Left/Right Challenge to the Failed “War on Drugs”
Traci Yoder
Free Speech on Campus: a Critical Analysis
Dave Lindorff
Beware the Supporter Scorned: Upstate New York Trump Voters Hit Hard in President’s Proposed 2018 Budget
Daniel Read
“Sickening Cowardice”: Now More Than Ever, Britain’s Theresa May Must be Held to Account on the Plight of Yemen’s Children
Ana Portnoy
Before the Gates: Puerto Rico’s First Bankruptcy Trial
M. Reza Behnam
Rethinking Iran’s Terrorism Designation
Brian Cloughley
Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance
Josh Hoxie
Pain as a Policy Choice
David Macaray
Stephen Hawking Needs to Keep His Mouth Shut
Ramzy Baroud
Fear as an Obstacle to Peace: Why Are Israelis So Afraid?
Kathleen Wallace
The Bilious Incongruity of Trump’s Toilet
Seth Sandronsky
Temping Now
Alan Barber – Dean Baker
Blue Collar Blues: Manufacturing Falls in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania in April
Jill Richardson
Saving America’s Great Places
Richard Lawless
Are Credit Rating Agencies America’s Secret Fifth Column?
Louis Proyect
Venezuela Reconsidered
Murray Dobbin
The NDP’s Singh and Ashton: Flash Versus Vision
Ron Leighton
Endarkenment: Postmodernism, Identity Politics, and the Attack on Free Speech
Anthony Papa
Drug War Victim: Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison
Rev. John Dear
A Call to Mobilize the Nation Over the Next 18 Months
Yves Engler
Why Anti-Zionism and Anti-Jewish Prejudice Have to Do With Each Other
Ish Mishra
Political Underworld and Adventure Journalism
Binoy Kampmark
Roger Moore in Bondage
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail