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UK internet law experts slam DRIP as an expansion of the 'surveillance state'

Drop DRIP say Profs
Tue Jul 15 2014, 14:51
Houses of Parliament

A GROUP OF ACADEMIC EXPERTS on internet law has written to the UK government with its concerns about the emergency legislation called the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (DRIP).

DRIP has been around for less than a week, but has drawn criticism from all sides. Nearly all are concerned with the erosion of human rights, and how the bill affects, or rather ignores, a European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision regarding data retention.

This is one of the concerns of the letter writers, a list which includes professors and doctors from a wide range of learned organisations.

"In introducing the bill to Parliament, the home secretary framed the legislation as a response to the [ECJ]'s decision on data retention, and as essential to preserve current levels of access to communications data by law enforcement and security services. The government has maintained that the bill does not contain new powers," they write.

"On our analysis, this position is false. In fact, the bill proposes to extend investigatory powers considerably, increasing the British government's capabilities to access both communications data and content."

The concern about an extension of powers is a very real one. In supporting information the government reserved the right to increase the scale of the bill once it is in place. The letter writers say that the government is using the 'emergency' excuse for its own surveillance ends.

"The legislation goes far beyond simply authorising data retention in the UK. In fact, DRIP attempts to extend the territorial reach of the British interception powers, expanding the UK's ability to mandate the interception of communications content across the globe," they add.

"It introduces powers that are not only completely novel in the United Kingdom, they are some of the first of their kind globally... DRIP is far more than an administrative necessity; it is a serious expansion of the British surveillance state."

The experts ask the government to slow down on the fast track legislation, and give it "full and proper" scrutiny.

Separately, a video posted to Youtube that claims to be from the Anonymous group has accused the government of being overbearing, and of taking a global lead in limiting internet freedom.

The video asks the general public to reach out to their member of Parliament and protest. It adds that MPs who resist the opportunity to oppose DRIP will be "dealt with accordingly". µ


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