Justice has published a report, Freedom from Suspicion, calling for “a fundamental overhaul of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act in order to protect the right of individual privacy from unnecessary, unwarranted and unchecked state intrusion“. The press notice highlights some of the report’s findings:

  • Since RIPA came into force in 2000, there have been 20,000 interception warrants (e.g.secretly listening to phone calls and reading emails), more than 30,000 authorisations for directed surveillance (e.g. following someone in public), and more than 2.7 million requests for communications data (e.g. access to phone bills). The true extent of surveillance activity since 2000 is unknown because full numbers have never been published;
  • Of the nearly 3 million surveillance decisions taken by public bodies under RIPA since 2000, fewer than 5,000 (or 0.5%) were approved by a judge;
  • The highly secretive Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the main complaints body under RIPA, has only dealt with 1,100 complaints since RIPA began. In the last decade, it has only upheld ten complaints;
  • RIPA is poorly-drafted and lacks sufficient safeguards against abuse. This has contributed to the failure of the Metropolitan police to properly investigate phone-hacking, the illegal recording of privileged conversations between lawyers and clients, the spread of CCTV cameras, and the use of snooping powers by local authorities.
The report argues that the proposed amendments to RIPA put forward in the Protection of Freedoms Bill are nowhere near enough to bring Britain’s surveillance laws in line with human rights standards.