Cyber Spying Laws Are Changing

As the UK  nears its final departure form the European Union (EU) a very rare thing has happened to British state spying laws: they have been tightened-up after parts of the so-called Snoopers' Charter were formally commenced into law. The UK's spy agency auditor has given public sector snoopers a clean bill of health, except for domestic surveillance by MI5. 

Now, in the US their National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance program has been ruled unlawful, seven years after it was exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.  The surveillance of millions of Americans' telephone records first came to light in 2013. Top US intelligence officials had publicly insisted the NSA had never knowingly collected data from private phone records, until Snowden exposed evidence to the contrary in 2013. 

The UK government’s bulk surveillance practices came under scrutiny before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.  This landmark hearing will consider whether two practices in particular violate the public’s right to privacy and freedom of speech:

(i) bulk interception of communications; and

(ii) intelligence sharing with foreign states such as the US. Newly commenced sections of the Investigatory Powers Act, better known as the Snoopers' Charter, will slightly restrict the ability of local councils and other such undesirables to spy on you and your business. 

Specifically, the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (Commencement No.12) Regulations 2020, means anyone trying to spy on your communications data must now get the permission of your telco or postal service, or convince a judicial commissioner to sign off a warrant forcing disclosure.

Abuse of UK surveillance powers by local councils in particular has long been a feature of UK domestic spying laws. However, it appears that the tightening of the law explicitly excludes RIPA 2000 powers, of which a concerning number remain on the statute book.

Statutory auditor IPCO, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner's Office, issues annual reports into the use of spying powers by state agencies. Its most recent annual report concluded that all was well in state surveillance land despite some businesses, journalists, doctors, lawyers and MPs being spied upon by the public sector. 

It is currently very important that UK companies completely comprehend and engage with IT and cyber security laws that may affect their business as the UK finally leaves the EU on January 1st 2021. 

Clayden Law:    The Register:      The Register:        DPGLaw:      BBC:          Guardian:          Reuters:       

For  legal advice on Business Cyber Security and IT in the UK we recommend that you contact Clayden Law. They concentrate on advising on information technology, data privacy and cyber security law. 

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