Theresa May's proposed spying law is 'worse than scary' United Nations says

The draft Investigatory Powers Bill would give the Government sweeping new spying powers

Jon Stone
Wednesday 11 November 2015 11:06 GMT
Theresa May is steeling the bill through Parliament
Theresa May is steeling the bill through Parliament (Getty)

Theresa May’s proposed surveillance and spying laws are “worse than scary”, the United Nations’ privacy chief has said.

Joseph Cannataci, the UN's special rapporteur on privacy, said the draft Investigatory Powers Bill heralded a “golden age of surveillance” unlike any that had come before.

The draft law, published by the Home Secretary earlier this month, would require internet companies to hand over any and all of their users’ communications as required by authorities.

Other provisions in the bill require the visited websites of all users to be stored on record for a year.

Technical experts have said that the proposed rules on intercepting communications could lead to some services like WhatsApp and iMessage to be de-facto banned because their secure encryption makes it impossible for their host companies to read users’ messages.

The Government says it is not making encryption illegal, only “strong” encryption that actually does its job of making communications uninterceptable.

It also claims judge-led reviews of ministerial decisions to use the powers would provide adequate oversight of the Government’s spying.

“The snoopers' charter in the UK is just a bit worse than scary, isn't it,” Mr Cannataci told the Internet Governance Forum in Brazil, in comments reported by Wired UK.

Mr Cannataci accused the British Government of an “orchestrated” propaganda campaign through its allies in the media to get the law passed with public consent.

“We're now at the stage where for the first time we have an absolute offensive,” he said.

“Just do a media analysis of the way the British establishment is trotting out news about the law and the need for the law and ask yourselves the question 'If this is not orchestrated then what is?'”

A previous attempt at passing powerful laws to allow authorities to intercept communications data was blocked by the Liberal Democrats in the previous 2010 coalition government.

Labour says the bill should have more safeguards and oversight but has not come out strongly against it.

The intervention from Mr Cannataci is not the first time the Government has provoked the ire of the UK.

The international organisation is reportedly launching an investigation into human rights violations in the disability benefits system, and has previously criticised the UK's 'xenophobic' approach to migration and refugee policy.

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