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.

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
January 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Louis Proyect
Morality Tales on the American Malaise: the Films of Rick Alverson
January 18, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
The Destabilizer: Trump’s Escalating Threats Against Iran
John W. Whitehead
Silence Is Betrayal: Get Up, Stand Up, Speak Up for Your Rights
Andrew Day
Of “Shitholes” and Liberals
Dave Lindorff
Rep. Gabbard Speaks Truth to Power About the Real Reason Korea Has Nukes
Barbara G. Ellis
The Workplace War: Hatpins Might Be in Style Again for Women
Binoy Kampmark
Corporate Sickness in May’s Britain
Ralph Nader
Twitter Rock Star Obama’s Silence Must Delight Trump
John G. Russell
#Loose Lips (Should) Sink … Presidencies … But Even If They Could, What Comes Next?
David Macaray
The “Mongrelization” of the White Race
Ramzy Baroud
In Words and Deeds: The Genesis of Israeli Violence
January 17, 2018
Seiji Yamada
Prevention is the Only Solution: a Hiroshima Native’s View of Nuclear Weapons
Chris Welzenbach
Force of Evil: Abraham Polonsky and Anti-Capitalist Noir
Thomas Klikauer
The Business of Bullshit
Howard Lisnoff
The Atomized and Siloed U.S. Left
Martha Rosenberg
How Big Pharma Infiltrated the Boston Museum of Science
George Wuerthner
The Collaboration Trap
David Swanson
Removing Trump Will Require New Activists
Michael McKinley
Australia and the Wars of the Alliance: United States Strategy
Binoy Kampmark
Macron in China
Cesar Chelala
The Distractor-in-Chief
Ted Rall
Why Trump is Right About Newspaper Libel Laws
Mary Serumaga
Corruption in Uganda: Minister Sam Kutesa and Company May Yet Survive Their Latest Scandal
January 16, 2018
Mark Schuller
What is a “Shithole Country” and Why is Trump So Obsessed With Haiti?
Paul Street
Notes From a “Shithole” Superpower
Louisa Willcox
Keeper of the Flame for Wilderness: Stewart “Brandy” Brandborg
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Sinister Plan to Kill the Iranian “Nukes” Deal
Franklin Lamb
Kafkaesque Impediments to Challenging Iran’s Theocracy
Norman Solomon
Why Senator Cardin is a Fitting Opponent for Chelsea Manning
Fred Gardner
GI Coffeehouses Recalled: a Compliment From General Westmoreland
Brian Terrell
Solidarity from Central Cellblock to Guantanamo
Don Fitz
Bondage Scandal: Looking Beneath the Surface
Rob Seimetz
#Resist Co-opting “Shithole”
Ted Rall
Trump Isn’t Unique
January 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Democrats and the End(s) of Politics
Paul Tritschler
Killing Floor: the Business of Animal Slaughter
Mike Garrity
In Targeting the Lynx, the Trump Administration Defies Facts, Law, and Science Once Again
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Hong Kong Politics: a Never-Ending Farce
Uri Avnery
Bibi’s Son (Or Three Men in a Car)
Dave Lindorff
Yesterday’s ‘Shithole Countries’ Can Become Classy Places Donald, and Vice Versa
Jeff Mackler
Lesser Evil Politics in Alabama
Jonah Raskin
Typewriters Still Smoking? An Interview with Underground Press Maven John McMillan
Jose-Antonio Orosco
Trump’s Comments Recall a Racist Past in Immigration Policy
David Macaray
Everything Seems to Be Going South
Kathy Kelly
41 Hearts Beating in Guantanamo
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail