Ninety per cent of Brits believe Government surveillance powers contained in new Snoopers' Charter are not acceptable, new poll finds

05 June 2016

  • New ComRes poll, commissioned by Liberty, shows nine in 10 British adults (90 per cent) either say that it is only acceptable for the Government to access their communications data or online activity if they are suspected of or have committed a crime, or that this practice is never acceptable.
  • Investigatory Powers Bill will give dozens of public bodies access to everybody’s communications data and web browsing history regardless of suspicion.
  • Nearly three quarters (72 per cent) don’t know anything about Investigatory Powers Bill – or have never even heard of it.

A new poll commissioned by Liberty has revealed nine out of 10 British adults believe state surveillance powers proposed by the Investigatory Powers Bill are not acceptable.

Ninety per cent of the public either say it is only acceptable for the Government to access and monitor records of their emails, text messages, phone calls and online browsing history if they are suspected of or have committed a crime – or say this practice is never acceptable.

No Snoopers' Charter poll

Liberty believes that targeted access to communications data based on suspicion, with a robust system of independent judicial oversight, is important in preventing and detecting serious crime.

The results come out as MPs prepare to debate the new Snoopers’ Charter in the Commons.

The Bill would force telecoms companies and internet service providers to store every person’s communications data – records of calls, texts and web activity – and entire internet browsing history for a year. This data could then be accessed by dozens of public bodies with no need for suspicion of criminality.

Just eight per cent of those polled believed that it would be acceptable for the Government to access and monitor records of emails, text messages, phone calls and online browsing history in all circumstances, whether or not someone has committed or is suspected of committing a crime.

The polling also exposes a lack of public awareness of the legislation, currently being rushed through Parliament, which will grant these and many other even more intrusive mass surveillance powers.

Seventy-two per cent of those polled say they have either never heard of the Bill, or know nothing about it.

Three quarters of British adults don't know anything about the IP Bill

Key findings include:

  • 38 per cent of British adults believe it would only be acceptable for the Government to access and monitor records of their emails, texts, phone calls and online browsing history if they are suspected of committing a crime.
  • 22 per cent believe it would be acceptable only if they have committed a crime.
  • 30 per cent believe it would never be acceptable.
  • Only eight per cent believe it would be acceptable in all circumstances.

Of those polled:

  • 54 per cent have never heard of the Government’s plans to introduce the Investigatory Powers Bill into law.
  • 18 per cent have heard of it – but know nothing about it.

A consensus for targeted surveillance

The Investigatory Powers Bill will force telecoms companies to store everybody’s communications data – records of all calls, texts and web activity – for a year.

This includes records of correspondence between journalists and sources, lawyers and clients, MPs and constituents and doctors and patients.

It will also force internet service providers to generate and hand over ‘internet connection records’ for the whole population – covering everything from opening apps and uploading photos to entire internet browsing histories – regardless of criminality or suspicion.

This will make the UK the only country in Europe to have these powers on the statute book, at massive cost to the public purse.

This information can then be accessed by a large number of organisations and Government agencies, including HMRC, the Food Standards Agency and the Department for Work and Pensions, with no need for suspicion of criminality or for sign off from a judge or other independent official.

Liberty is calling on the public to sign up to its No Snoopers’ Charter campaign and urge their MPs to reject the Bill when they vote on it this summer.

Bella Sankey, Director of Policy for Liberty, said: “In its effort to expand the surveillance state, the Government is already ignoring technology experts, service providers and three cross-party parliamentary committees – but the views of the British public will be harder for even the Home Secretary to dismiss.

“This Bill would create a detailed profile on each of us which could be made available to hundreds of organisations to speculatively trawl and analyse. It will all but end online privacy, put our personal security at risk and swamp law enforcement with swathes of useless information. 

“The vast majority of people know nothing about this Bill but, when asked, overwhelmingly reject this approach – MPs must listen to those they represent, vote against this rotten legislation and give us the effective, targeted system the British people want, need and deserve.”

ENDS

CONTACT: Liberty Press Office on 020 7378 3656 or 07973 831128

Notes to editors:

  • ComRes interviewed 1,003 British adults by telephone between 29 April and 1 May 2016. Data were weighted by gender, age, region and socio-economic grade to be representative of all GB adults aged 18+. Full results can be found at www.comres.co.uk.

The Snoopers’ Charter would also legalise:

  • Mass hacking of phones and other devices by intelligence agencies, capable of dangerously undermining Britain’s digital infrastructure.
  • Hacking of phones and devices by other public bodies, with police officers and immigration officers responsible for issuing warrants.
  • Bulk interception of calls, webcams, emails, online exchanges and texts.
  • Acquiring vast databases containing personal information – including medical, political, lifestyle and banking information – on millions of people – potentially the whole population.
  • Powers to force telecoms operators here and abroad to remove encryption – and ban them from revealing they have been forced to do so.
  • Liberty’s briefings on the Investigatory Powers Bill can be read here.
  • Liberty’s short film raising awareness of the intrusive powers in the Investigatory Powers Bill, Show Me Yours…, can be viewed and shared here.