Rushed data legislation would give UK worrying surveillance powers

The British government’s attempt to rush through a bill on data retention before the House of Commons summer recess next week has run into opposition–not from members across the aisle but from Internet companies, civil liberty defenders, and lawyers, who say the law would extend the authorities’ already vast snooping capabilities.

The Global Network Initiative, of which CPJ is a founding member, wrote to British Prime Minister David Cameron expressing concern that the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill, known by the deceptively dull acronym DRIP, would require any communications provider holding data to comply with government requests to hand it over, even if they were outside U.K. jurisdiction.

“By asserting extraterritorial jurisdiction, the DRIP Bill could provide unintended justification for such actions by other governments, including those that seek to limit freedom of expression and other human rights online. We are concerned that the effect of passing this legislation will be to encourage other governments to expand claims of jurisdiction without regard to the physical location of data centers,’ the GNI stated.

Read the full letter here.

Another letter dropped into the Number 10 mailbox this week from a group of eminent U.K. legal experts questioning the intent behind the bill. The group concluded that DRIP “is far more than an administrative necessity; it is a serious expansion of the British surveillance state.”