UK Surveillance Law Marks a “Worse Than Scary” Shift

UK Surveillance Law Marks a “Worse Than Scary” Shift

Published By: CNET, 11/29/2016

>> View the Article <<


The Investigatory Powers Act, recently passed in the UK, will require telecom companies to store records of phone calls and websites visited for up to a year, and give authorities access to the latter without a warrant. It also legalizes bulk data collection by the British government. Groups like the Open Rights Group and Privacy International are openly critical of this law, calling it draconian.

Extended Discussion Questions

  • The article highlights the classic dilemma of how to balance personal privacy vs. national security. Does the Investigatory Powers Act (IP Act) break this balance? Why or why not?
  • Critics say the Act would encourage authoritarian regimes in other countries to conduct repressive surveillance. Should the British parliament have considered possible international effects, or should they make decisions based on what they think is best for Britain?
  • The new law requires companies to decrypt communications when ordered to, and prevents them from talking about it. Do you think companies should follow that law? What about if a very repressive government in another country passed the same law?
  • The article mentions concerns about police abusing their new powers. Besides the terrorists and criminals the law is aimed at, are there any groups who might be especially worried about the government accessing their electronic communications? Why? (Prompts: Journalists? Activists?)
  • Some experts say irrelevant personal information may actually distract authorities from real threats to national security. (See alternative article.) Could computing be leveraged to filter through this irrelevant information? How might that work?

Alternative Article

“Investigatory Powers Bill Faces Legal Challenge From Privacy Groups”
Published By: Computing, 11/25/2016 || View the Article
Discusses whether access to a large amount of mostly irrelevant information can actually improve national security. Published before the bill was passed.

Relating This Story to the CSP Curriculum Framework

Global Impact Learning Objectives:

  • LO 7.3.1 Analyze the beneficial and harmful effects of computing.
  • LO 7.4.1 Explain the connections between computing and real-world contexts, including economic, social, and cultural contexts.

Global Impact Essential Knowledge:

  • EK 7.3.1A Innovations enabled by computing raise legal and ethical concerns.
  • EK 7.3.1G Privacy and security concerns arise in the development and use of computational systems and artifacts.
  • EK 7.3.1J Technology enables the collection, use, and exploitation of information about, by, and for individuals, groups, and institutions.
  • EK 7.3.1K People can have instant access to vast amounts of information online; accessing this information can enable the collection of both individual and aggregate data that can be used and collected.

Other CSP Big Ideas:

  • Idea 6 The Internet

Banner Image: “Network Visualization – Violet – Offset Crop”, derivative work by ICSI. New license: CC BY-SA 4.0. Based on “Social Network Analysis Visualization” by Martin Grandjean. Original license: CC BY-SA 3.0

Home Forums UK Surveillance Law Marks a “Worse Than Scary” Shift

  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.