As calls are made for new wide-ranging internet surveillance powers following the horrific events in Paris, ISPA is concerned that politicians are taking the easy way out by demanding greater surveillance powers without explaining how they can effectively help to prevent future terrorist incidents and without giving proper consideration to valid concerns about civil liberties and the impact on business in the UK.

It has been reported that those responsible for the terrorist attacks were known to the security services. Existing legislation already allows for suspects’ communications to be intercepted via a warrant, and the retention of communications data, which is already being retained in the UK, would also have been available to the intelligence services and the police under the existing RIPA process. While the draft Communications Data Bill would have provided access to broader data set, it is questionable whether it would have helped to prevent the incidents in Paris and the industry and UK citizens should be provided with a clear justification for why the Bill is needed now.

Restricting the use of encryption and encrypted communication, as suggested by  the Prime Minister, further risks undermining the UK’s status as a good and safe place to do business. In the wake of an increasing number of cyber-attacks and Government initiatives to raise the awareness of cyber risks, encryption is widely accepted as a key measure to safely do business online. Business, individuals and governments around the world rely on encryption to carry out everyday tasks and services, forcing companies to weaken encryption measures would weaken protection against cyber criminals, foreign intelligence agencies and others.

ISPA accepts that the communications landscape is changing but an independent, Government-commissioned review is being led by David Anderson QC into investigatory powers. This is the sort of considered and informed process, listening and involving the various stakeholders, that we hope will inform and develop policy in this area. The review is set to report before the election and we are concerned that politicians have pre-judged the review and will ignore its conclusions.