London, United Kingdom – Privacy and civil liberties campaigners have accused David Cameron, the British prime minister, of “cynically exploiting” last week’s attacks in Paris to call for even more stringent counterterrorism and surveillance powers than those already being controversially pushed through parliament.Speaking earlier this week, Cameron pledged to give British security services greater capabilities to monitor and read online communications, and said countries such as the UK and France were facing a “fanatical death cult of Islamist extremist violence”.
London, United Kingdom – An unprecedented public appearance by British spy chiefs to face questioning over the conduct of their organisations following revelations about UK complicity in mass internet surveillance has been lambasted by civil liberties and privacy campaigners.Thursday’s televised session of the intelligence and security committee, the parliamentary panel that oversees the activities of the British secret services, was hailed by Malcolm Rifkind, the committee’s chairman, as “a very significant step forward in the transparency of our intelligence agencies”.
Almost a decade ago, the head of the UK’s privacy watchdog voiced concerns about how advances in technology coupled with greater powers vested in the police, security services and other authorities to tackle issues such as terrorism and immigration risked undermining the liberties of British citizens.
“My anxiety is that we don’t sleepwalk into a surveillance society where much more information is collected about people, accessible to far more people shared across many more boundaries, than British society would feel comfortable with,” Richard Thomas, the then-information commissioner, told the Times newspaper in 2004.
Following revelations by Edward Snowden, the US whistleblower, about the volume of internet and telephone data being secretly compiled about them by state intelligence services, and shocking allegations about the activities of undercover police officers, even the least paranoid of Britons could now be forgiven for adopting the restless fidgeting and sideways glances of an inveterate conspiracy theorist.