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Saturday, February 11, 2012

UK Lacks Transparency On Surveillance

The British government has been hardly criticized by privacy groups due to a lack of transparency over the country’s involvement in the surveillance industry. According to one of the reports released a few days ago, the government agencies all over the globe have been attending events and trade shows representing their surveillance technology.

Any attendees at ISS World are able to purchase the latest surveillance and monitoring technology. According to the press reports, even some quite surprising attendees, like Strathclyde Police and the Fish and Wildlife Service of America, turn up as well, paying more than a thousand dollars per head.

The UK Home Office has attended such events in the past, but for some “operational reasons”, the outfit refused to comment on the purpose for the visits, saying that they are a matter of course, since the officials just attended events like this and others as routine. Meanwhile, privacy advocates were quick to question the necessity for the British government to attend such events, and called the authorities for more transparency over attendance.

In response, Emma Carr, deputy director of the outfit, pointed out that questions need to be asked as to why individual police forces, like Strathclyde Police, would need to visit a conference featuring training sessions on the Internet social media and online investigations and exploiting PC and mobile vulnerabilities for electronic surveillance. She said that in the past decade there have been millions of interceptions of communications, with just a tiny fraction of them being authorized by a court.

Emma Carr thinks that since technology is advancing so fast, the authorities need to be clear about its surveillance powers. The suggestions are that the United Kingdom needs to enforce a proper regulatory system to protect privacy and civil liberties. Emma Carr explained that citizens cannot believe that these powers are being used properly if the authorities aren’t transparent in its attendance at such meetings.

If you consider the number of people attending conferences of this kind, you will see the enthusiasm for using more intrusive technology. Thus far, it is not certain that the UK has suitable regulation enforced to make sure it is used proportionately and in appropriate situations.

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