Today English PEN joins with a group of civil liberties organisations to launch a petition for reform of United Kingdom surveillance laws.
The recent disclosures by whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the disturbing extent of mass surveillance by the British spy agency GCHQ and the NSA. The agencies have used secret data sharing agreements to circumvent the requirement for warrants and oversight. They have collected telephone, e-mail and web browsing data for millions of people who are not suspected of any crime. Parliament has failed to operate an effective system of oversight, and the legal routes to challenge unwarranted intrusion are both limited and secret.
Freedom of expression depends on an expectation of privacy. How can we think freely and exchange ideas if we know that the government is looking over our shoulder? Democracy, culture and creativity cannot properly flourish while spies are logging our communications and keeping records of its citizen’s behaviour.
The #DontSpyOnUs campaign is demanding surveillance reform in the UK. We recognise that the security services need some powers of surveillance, but these must be necessary, proportionate, and subject to proper democratic oversight. Our key principles are:
- No surveillance without suspicion
- Transparent laws, not secret laws
- Judicial, not political authorisation of warrants
- Effective democratic oversight of the security services
- The right to redress when privacy has been invaded
- A secure web for all – Government spies should not weaken the security of widely used technologies, internet protocols, and standards
Visit the Don’t Spy On Us home page to read more about the campaign’s pragmatic policies for change, and to add your name in support of reform.
The Don’t Spy On Us campaign website is being launched today to coincide with #TheDayWeFightBack , a global day of action protesting against the excessive and unwarranted surveillance practised by NSA, GCHQ and their ‘Five Eyes’ counter-parts around the world.
English PEN is also party to an ongoing legal challenge to GCHQ’s surveillance practices at the European Court of Human Rights. Lawyers acting for English PEN, Open Rights Group, Big Brother Watch and Constanze Kurtz have argued that the Government’s surveillance programmes are unlawful, and that there is no effective and open means to challenge this surveillance in the British judicial system. Last month we heard that the European Court has designated the challenge as a priority case, and has given the Government until 2 May 2014 to respond to the case. To read more, visit PrivacyNotPrism.org.uk