A variety of human rights and privacy campaigners and groups have reacted in a negative manner to a new Parliamentary report on massive surveillance.
According to the document, while more transparency for the public is required, UK surveillance agencies including MI5, MI6 and GCHQ do not seek to circumvent the law when engaging in surveillance practices.
The ISC report claims that a new, single Act of Parliament to legislate the intrusive capabilities of such organisations is required, but they still need the ability to intercept a variety of communications data in order to protect the country from any potential threats including cybercrime and terrorism.
Many privacy and human rights campaigners accept the publication of such an Inquiry as a step in a positive direction, but are disappointed in the conclusions reached by the Committee.
“Far from allaying the public’s concerns, the ISC’s report should trouble every single person who uses a computer or mobile phone,” claimed privacy campaigners Privacy International.
“It describes in great detail how the security services are intercepting billions of communications each day and interrogating those communications against thousands of selection fields.
“The ISC has attempted to mask the reality of its admission by describing GCHQ’s actions as ‘bulk interception.
“However, no amount of technical and legal jargon can obscure the fact that this is a Parliamentary committee, in a democratic country, telling its citizens that they are living in a surveillance state and that all is well,” it added.
Privacy International’s sentiments are echoed by human rights group Liberty, which claimed UK citizens are getting an “appalling” deal.
“The ISC has repeatedly shown itself as simple mouthpiece for the spooks – so clueless and ineffective that it’s only thanks to Edward Snowden that it had the slightest clue of the agencies’ antics,” claimed the organisation’s director Shami Chakrabarti.
“The Committee calls this report a landmark for ‘openness and transparency’ – but how do we trust agencies who have acted unlawfully, hacked the world’s largest SIM card manufacturer and developed technologies capable of collecting our login details and passwords, manipulating our mobile devices and hacking our computers and webcams.
“No doubt it would be simpler if we went along with the spies’ motto of ‘no scrutiny for us, no privacy for you’ – but what an appalling deal for the British public,” Chakrabarti added.
Meanwhile, civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch is concerned about elements of the report that failed to make it into any official ISC publicity surrounding the document.
“It is telling that one the same day the ISC publishes its ‘landmark’ report, with many key details having been redacted, the Commissioner has called for the agencies to be more open about how they use their powers and why they need them,” it claimed.
“Far from giving the organisations using these intrusive powers a clean bill of health, the Commissioner notes that over 1000 errors have been made. Particularly worrying are the 21 instances that left to ‘multiple or serious consequences.’
“It is vital that the Commissioner upholds his promise to reveal the full details of these incidents and the subsequent investigations. With increasing amounts of rhetoric on both sides of the debate it is more important than ever that the public has as much information as is possible to come to an informed judgement about the role of surveillance in our society,” it added.