Publish harmless spy data – Clegg

p2746UK-News-8-1

Published: Wednesday 15th October 2014 by The News Editor

Comments (0)

Information about the work of the intelligence and security services should be made public before the general election, Nick Clegg said as he warned excessive secrecy was seriously eroding public confidence in their work.

The Deputy Prime Minister said he hoped the first of an annual series of “transparency reports” agreed to as part of emergency legislation rushed through in July to ensure access to mobile and internet data would be released before May.

And he said it should include a more detailed breakdown of the 500,000 requests lodged each year by the authorities for access to individuals’ confidential communications information.

Mr Clegg also suggested the creation of a “constitution for the internet” in the form of an international treaty to reflect the increasing irrelevance of national boundaries in policing online content.

Giving evidence to Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, Mr Clegg urged the state to “unclench” its grip on harmless data.

“My personal experience is that there is a bit of a tendency to keep stuff secret which could easily be published without any harm”, he said.

“I think we could unclench quite a lot when it comes to some of the data.

“A good example is that we know there are about half a million communications data requests are made every year.

“There is no information in the public domain about ‘is that 500,000 individuals, 500,000 premises. It might actually be a much smaller number of individuals but lots of repeat requests.

“I think the public is perfectly entitled to know that and I think that is one of the things that will be published in the transparency report, the first of which I hope will be published before the election that were agreed to as part of the measures around the rather unfortunately named Dripa legislation “Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014).”

At the height of the furore over the revelations from US whistleblower Edward Snowden about the UK agencies’ internet monitoring capabilities earlier this year, Mr Clegg called for a significant overhaul of the oversight system.

Mr Snowden exposed details of major data-harvesting operations by government listening post GCHQ and its US counterpart, the National Security Agency.

The Liberal Democrat leader said changes should include a website for information about the work of the agencies, opening decisions of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal to UK court appeals and publication of the reasons for rulings and a single watchdog.

He has also proposed changes to the function of the committee – made up of senior MPs and peers – which is leading an investigation following the Snowden revelations.

“I don’t see any of those improvements as a threat to the legitimacy of the agencies,” Mr Clegg told them.

“I would actually turn it around and say if you don’t do this, you create the conditions in which public scepticism about what the agencies do only festers further.”

Talking about the need to look beyond national scrutiny, he said: “This is a global problem that needs some basic global discipline and checks and balances including perhaps in the end a kind of constitution for the internet, a sense that people who use the internet feel there are certain parameters and certain rights they can exercise in that space.

“Because the level of technological innovation is so great and the volume of data is now so huge … a lot of old distinctions are increasingly being blurred or possibly destroyed altogether.

“National and international is increasingly a meaningless distinction: domestic and international IT traffic is becoming synonymous.

“I increasingly question our ability to deal with these questions on our own. We will have to move in time towards a more treaty-based approach in which jurisdictions become more compatible with each other.”

Published: Wednesday 15th October 2014 by The News Editor

Comments (0)

Local business search