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UN rapporteur: 'Bad example' UK should bin the Snoopers' Charter

Theresa May's plans run 'counter' to human rights standards, we're told

IPB The UN's special rapporteur on privacy has used his maiden report to the Human Rights Council, which he presented today, to criticise the UK's potential Snoopers' Charter.

Joseph Cannataci, the UN's first “Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age", used his 30-page report (DOC) to invite the British government to “desist from setting a bad example to other states” and “outlaw rather than legitimise” the Investigatory Powers Bill's provisions for bulk surveillance and bulk hacking.

The rapporteur added that recognition was due to the three Parliamentary reports published in February “for their consistent, strong, if occasionally over-polite, criticism of the UK Government's Investigatory Powers Bill.”

While also tipping his hat to the government's attempt "to introduce much-needed reinforcement of oversight mechanisms", he said that his office's "initial assessment” of the newest version of the bill “leads to serious concern about the value of some of the revisions most recently introduced.”

At the time of writing, not only do some of the UK Government’s proposals appear to run counter to the logic and findings of UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-terrorism Ben Emmerson in his 2014 report dealing inter alia with mass surveillance, but they prima facie fail the benchmarks set by the ECJ in Schrems and the ECHR in Zakharov.

The two largest cases regarding mass surveillance heard by human rights courts in the last two years, Max Schrems' work to collapse Safe Harbor, and Zakharov's successful case against the Russian system of forced telecommunications interception, were also cited in a section titled "the beginning of the judicial end for mass surveillance."

Cannataci said these cases set standards for privacy that Theresa May's Investigatory Powers Bill failed to uphold. Previously chairman of the Council of Europe’s committee of experts on data protection during the 1990s, the rapporteur added that Westminster did not fully appreciate the "serious and possibly unintended consequences" of legitimising its mass-surveillance activities in law.

Noting the influence that British legislation has "in over 25 per cent of the UN's members states that still form part of the Commonwealth", Cannataci encouraged the government "to take this golden opportunity to set a good example and step back from taking disproportionate measures which may have negative ramifications far beyond the shores of the United Kingdom."

Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, said: "The Special Rapporteur's report is yet another damning criticism of the Investigatory Powers Bill. Not only does it call for the disproportionate powers in the Bill to be 'outlawed rather than legitimised', it points out that the Bill does not comply with recent human rights rulings. The report also voices another serious concern that the impact of this extreme legislation will be felt around the world, and copied by other countries."

Tomaso Falchetta, a legal officer at Privacy International attending the presentation in Geneva, told The Register that "the rapporteur has an important role to play in this debate," and that he was looking forward to seeing Cannataci "involve himself with the development of surveillance laws" around the world.

The Register asked the Home Office for its response to the rapporteur's presentation. ®

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