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Expanded surveillance powers could threaten work of journalists in UK

May 5, 2017 12:08 PM ET

Brussels, May 5, 2017--The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by news reports that the U.K. government wants to push telecommunication companies to introduce real-time surveillance and the removal of encryption. On Thursday, The Register published leaked draft regulations detailing how telecommunications operators would be required to grant real-time access to individuals under warrant within 24 hours and hand over "secondary data."

"If enacted, these regulatory powers could increase the capacity of the U.K. authorities to spy on journalists and seriously hamper their work, including protection of source confidentiality," said Tom Gibson, CPJ's European Union Representative.

According to news reports, companies would also be obliged to "remove electronic protection" for individuals, essentially introducing a back door to end-to-end encryption, and provide "the content of communications or secondary data in an intelligible form." The regulations also ask companies to put in place systems that would allow them to intercept communications of 1 in 10,000 of their customers.

The draft regulations state they were drawn up under section 253 of the 2016 Investigatory Powers Act and shared for consultation with a Technical Advisory Board comprised of leading telecommunications providers. The 2016 Investigatory Powers Act drew widespread criticism because it granted the authorities increased capacity for mass surveillance in the U.K.

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