A Democratic Licence to Operate: Report of the Independent Surveillance Review

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As national security and public safety compete with the realities of digital society, the Independent Surveillance Review suggests a new licence to operate for the security and law-enforcement services


The British population has been greatly affected by the rapid evolution in information and communications technology. In this digital society, we all leave extensive traces of our behaviour and interactions in the course of our normal, everyday lives. We have unprecedented opportunities to express ourselves, to connect and share knowledge, to be prosperous and inventive.

At the same time, the digital society also presents new challenges, making citizens potential targets for fraudsters, criminals and possibly terrorists. The task for the police and SIAs has become more demanding as they try to stay abreast of rapid technological innovation and deal with threats that emanate from across the globe. It is important to ensure that the powers granted to these agencies to protect the public are explicit, comprehensible, and are seen to be both lawful and consistent with democratic values.

The citizen’s right to privacy online as offline – and what constitutes a ‘justifiable’ level of intrusion by the state – has become a central topic of debate. As traditional notions of national security and public safety compete with the realities of digital society, it is necessary to periodically renew the licence of the police, security and intelligence agencies to operate. This report aims to enable the public at large to engage in a more informed way in the debate, so that a broad consensus can be achieved and a new, democratic licence to operate can be agreed.

About the Panel

Professor Michael Clarke (Chairman)

Michael Clarke is Director General of the Royal United Services Institute.

Professor Heather Brooke

Heather Brooke is an investigative journalist and Professor of Journalism at City University, London. Heather worked as a political and crime reporter in the US before moving to Britain where she specialised in using the Freedom of Information Act, notably winning a High Court case against Parliament for the disclosure of MPs’ expenses. She is a Trustee of Privacy International and an Advisory Board Member of the Open Rights Group.

Mrs Lesley Cowley OBE

Lesley Cowley was appointed non-executive Chair of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in October 2014. She is also a non-Executive Director of (aql) and CERT-UK. She is a former Chief Executive of Nominet, the .uk domain-name registry.

Lord Evans of Weardale KCB DL

Jonathan Evans is a former Director General of the Security Service (MI5). He was appointed as an independent crossbench peer in the House of Lords in December 2014 and is a non-executive Director of HSBC. He is also a Senior Associate Fellow of RUSI.

Baroness Lane Fox of Soho CBE

Martha Lane Fox founded and chairs Go ON UK, a cross-sector digital-skills alliance. She chairs MakieLab and Lucky Voice. In 1998 she co founded lastminute.com. She joined the House of Lords as an independent crossbench peer in March 2013, and was appointed Chancellor of the Open University in March 2014. Martha was the British government’s Digital Champion from 2009 to 2013.

Professor John Grieve CBE QPM

A career police officer, former National Coordinator for Counter Terrorist Investigations and Director of Intelligence for the Metropolitan Police, John Grieve is now Professor Emeritus at London Metropolitan University and Director of its Centre for Policing and Community Safety, and a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Portsmouth. From 2004 to 2011 he was a Commissioner for the Independent Monitoring of some aspects of the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Professor Dame Wendy Hall DBE FRS FREng

Wendy Hall is Professor of Computer Science and Executive Director of the Web Science Institute at the University of Southampton, where she was previously the Dean of the Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering. She is currently a member of the Global Commission on Internet Governance and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Advisory Council on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.

Professor Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield FBA

Peter Hennessy is a historian and academic specialising in the history of government. Since 1992, he has been Attlee Professor of Contemporary British History at Queen Mary University of London and a Fellow of the British Academy. In 2010 he was appointed as an independent crossbench peer and sits in the House of Lords.

Professor Sir David Omand GCB

David Omand is a former UK Security and Intelligence co-ordinator, Permanent Secretary in the Home Office, Director of GCHQ and Deputy Under Secretary of State for Policy in the Ministry of Defence. He served for seven years on the Joint Intelligence Committee. He is currently a Visiting Professor in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London.

Baroness O’Neill of Bengarve CH CBE FBA FRS

Onora O’Neill is an Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge, and Chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. She was created a life peer in 1999 and sits as an independent crossbench peer in the House of Lords.

The Rt Hon the Lord Rooker

Jeffrey Rooker is a Labour politician who served as an MP for Birmingham Perry Barr for twenty-seven years, before joining the House of Lords in June 2001. His ministerial appointments included as Home Office Minister for Asylum and Immigration, and Minister of State in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. He has served on the Public Accounts Committee and is a former Chairman of the Foods Standards Agency.

Sir John Scarlett KCMG OBE

John Scarlett is a former Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service and a former Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee. He is currently Senior Advisor at Morgan Stanley, Chairman of the Strategy Advisory Council at Statoil and an advisor to Swiss Re. He is Chairman of the Bletchley Park Trust, a Trustee of the Imperial War Museum and a Senior Associate Fellow of RUSI.

Professor Ian Walden

Ian Walden is Professor of Information and Communications Law in the Centre for Commercial Law Studies, Queen Mary University of London. He is a solicitor and Of Counsel to Baker and McKenzie. Ian has previously been involved in law-reform p


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