CLP motion against mass surveillance and the Investigatory Powers Bill
The Conservative Government has passed a new “Snooper’s Charter” in the form of the Investigatory Powers Act. The Act forces internet and communications companies to collect and store everyone’s personal communications data, such as information about who we email, which websites we visit, and where we are when we send messages. It also allows the government to hack into our phones and computers, and could be used to force companies providing secure messaging, such as Whatsapp, to remove encryptions designed to protect our privacy.
Our data can now be accessed by a wide range of government agencies, including those responsible for administering benefits and food hygiene standards. This means these powers will not be confined to cases of terrorism or serious crime.
This CLP notes:
- Information about our communications and internet use can reveal intimate details about our lives, including our health, legal and financial affairs, and relationships.
- There is a distinction between carrying out surveillance against an individual suspected of a crime or involvement in terrorism, and mass surveillance carried out against the whole population regardless of innocence or guilt.
- Surveillance carried out against innocent people provides no help in the fight against terrorism and may cause harm by overloading the intelligence agencies with data.
- There is potential for abuse or misuse of surveillance powers. In recent years the security services and police have been accused of spying on or infiltrating groups of political activists, students’ unions, human rights organisations such as Amnesty International, charities like UNICEF, unions, and prominent individuals in the Labour Party like the Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan and Doreen Lawrence.
- The public are sceptical about mass surveillance. A poll from May 2014 shows that 88 percent of people believe their phone records, for example, should be kept private.
- There is a need for the Labour Party to demonstrate it can responsibly protect both privacy and security.
- The Labour Party has proposed a Charter of Digital Rights to protect privacy and security online.
This CLP resolves:
- Surveillance and hacking are vital tools in tackling terrorism and crime, but should only be used if there is reasonable suspicion of the subject’s involvement in such activity.
- The Investigatory Powers Act gives surveillance powers to too many government agencies. Surveillance powers should only be available to the security services to tackle the most serious cases of terrorism and crime.
- The Labour Party should work to ensure the right balance between privacy and security and take forward plans for a Charter of Digital Rights that protects both.