London, United Kingdom (HRW) – On January 6, a retired 36-year veteran of the National Security Agency turned whistleblower, William Binney, cautioned United Kingdom lawmakers against legalizing mass surveillance in the proposed Draft Investigatory Powers Bill. Binney told the parliamentary committee appointed to scrutinize the bill that “bulk data overcollection from Internet and telephone networks undermines security” because it overwhelms analysts, making it more difficult to identify threats.
“Britain should not go further down this road and risk making the same mistakes as [the United States] did, or they will end up perpetuating the loss of life,” Binney argued. Instead, he urged security agencies to prioritize more targeted forms of surveillance.
- Require meaningful, prior judicial authorization for all powers.
- Recognize that bulk data collection and interception are fundamentally disproportionate.
- Refrain from undermining encryption and digital security.
- State that provisions to allow authorities to hack into computers and phones would be far more intrusive than traditional wiretaps and require more scrutiny before the bill moves forward.
- Recommend that extraterritorial warrants set a dangerous precedent and should be forbidden.
- Access to remedy and oversight remains inadequate under the bill and should be strengthened.In introducing the bill, Home Secretary Theresa May described it as “world-leading.” Yet it is hard to overstate how expansive, intrusive, and arbitrary the surveillance apparatus envisioned under the draft bill would be. This is not the example the UK should be setting for the rest of the world.
This report prepared by Cynthia M. Wong for Human Rights Watch.