The government has issued a call for evidence and opinions on the extent to which it should be able to monitor private communications as the fallout from PRISM continues.
The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC) said in October that it would conduct a public review of the extent of surveillance in the UK after the PRISM spying scandal broke. This came three months after it had cleared GCHQ of any legal wrongdoings regarding the programme.
The ISC has now set out its guidelines for these submissions, with the ISC asking for responses of no more than 3,000 words with a deadline of 7 February 2014. The ISC asks in particular for thoughts on three particular areas.
The first asks: “What balance should be struck between the individual right to privacy and the collective right to security?”
Arguments about national security and protecting the public have been used to defend the spy agencies’ activities from day one, with governments arguing it is vital to monitor communications to catch suspected terrorists.
Furthermore, the ISC said it needs to consider the issue of this surveillance within the wider framework of other forms of monitoring.
“How does this differ for internet communications when compared to other forms of
surveillance, such as closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras? To what extent might it be necessary and proportionate to monitor or collect innocent communications in order to find those which might threaten our security?
“How does the intrusion differ between data (the fact a call took place between two numbers) as opposed to content (what was said in the call)?”
The second area of interest relates to the legal justification for mass monitoring of communications.
“Whether the legal framework which governs the security and intelligence agencies’
access to the content of private communications is ‘fit for purpose’, given the
developments in information technology since they were enacted.”
The final area relates to, whether there is a need for “specific changes to specific parts of legislation governing the collection, monitoring and interception of private communications."
All submissions have the potential to be published and those who provided particularly astute evidence may be asked to attend meetings to expand on their submissions. Responses can be emailed to the ISC’s dedicated email address for this inquiry.
Many tech giants such as Google, Microsoft and Apple could be among those who submit evidence, as they continue to protest against the extensive monitoring that has come to light thanks to papers leaked by former CIA analyst Edward Snowden.
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