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Southampton professor calls for changes in the law for surveillance by UK intelligence agencies

Published: 
15 July 2015

Professor Dame Wendy Hall from the University of Southampton has co-authored a significant new report, which calls for a fresh start in the law for surveillance practices in the UK.

After a year of investigation and consultation, the Independent Surveillance Review (ISR) delivered its conclusions to the Prime Minister, and presented its report, ‘A Democratic Licence to Operate’ at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) yesterday (14 July).

The final report found that the present legal framework authorising the interception of communications is unclear, has not kept pace with developments in communications technology, and does not serve either the government or members of the public satisfactorily. The panel said that a new, comprehensive and clearer legal framework is required and called on government, civil society and industry to accept its recommendations and work together to put them into practice.

Professor Dame Wendy Hall

Professor Dame Wendy Hall from Electronics and Computer Science at the University, said: “This report represents a remarkable achievement in bringing together a diverse group of people with a breadth of expertise and experience, ensuring that the ISR Panel examined the full range of issues regarding privacy and security in Britain today. In particular, we – as a panel- are acutely aware of the rapid pace of technology and its impact on society. To that end, I am very keen that the Government support our recommendation to create a new Advisory Council for Digital Technology and Engineering. The Advisory Council will support politicians, policymakers and the public alike and will play a crucial role in supporting our digital future.”

Launching the report the Chairman of the Panel, Michael Clarke, said: “With our report, the third major study of this subject this year, the government has a golden opportunity to make a fresh start by introducing legislation that provides a clear and legally sound framework within which the police and intelligence agencies can confidently operate, knowing that at all times they will be respecting our human rights.

“There is at present no shortage of mechanisms that regulate the way the Government runs interception programmes, but they are complicated, overlapping and in some cases, creaky. There is a manifest need for new legislation. We have outlined ten tests that people in Britain should apply when they hear what the government proposes. If government proposals genuinely meet these criteria, the new legislation will be able to address justifiable public concerns, and also allow the police and intelligence agencies to get on with their job.”

The review was carried out by RUSI, a defence think-tank, at the request of the then Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, in response to the disclosures made by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013.

The Review panel drew on the broad experience of its members, from the fields of investigative journalism, the Internet, law, policing, political life, moral philosophy - and including former Heads of the three British Intelligence and Security Agencies.

Download the report at https://www.rusi.org/downloads/assets/ISR-Report-press.pdf

Watch launch event

See photos from launch event

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