RUSI to Convene Independent Review on the Use of Internet Data for Surveillance Purposes

RUSI announces today the launch of an independent review of Internet surveillance practices in the UK and their control and oversight.

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At the request of the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, RUSI will convene an independent panel of experts with backgrounds in technology, civil liberties, and intelligence. It will report after the 2015 general election.

The announcement was made at a RUSI speech delivered by the Deputy Prime Minister on 4 March 2014 on the subject of surveillance and intelligence. The speech was perhaps the first time a senior UK politician addressed the revelations leaked by former US intelligence contractor, Edward Snowden.

Commenting on the launch of the review, RUSI Director-General Professor Michael Clarke said:

‘We are delighted to be part of a discussion process that will report after the next election. It is often said that the UK aspires to be cyber-secure: it is good for our competitive advantage, it is good for the economy, and it is good for our country. One of the aspects of cyber-security is that our citizens should be confident about the way our cyber-security is handled by our agencies. The aspiration of the UK’s National Security Strategy is that British citizens should be able to go about their business freely and with confidence. We hope our review will contribute to their ability to feel free and confident as they use the Internet.’

Announcing the launch, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

‘I would like the next government to draw on an independent assessment of the issues at stake. The Intelligence and Security Committee is conducting a review into privacy and security, which, I expect, will provide a valuable contribution to a wider discussion.

But there is an important role for independent think tanks and NGOs too, and that’s why I am delighted to be able to announce today that RUSI has agreed to establish an expert panel to review the use of internet data for surveillance purposes.

The panel will look at the principles that ought to govern our use of surveillance, examine current practice, and make recommendations for reform, and where necessary, suggest new legislation. They will look at the specific challenges I have set out, including the proper use of bulk data, but also the question of access to communications data held by private companies too.

I hope that as it progresses, the review that RUSI will lead will be able to garner support across the political spectrum.’

About the Surveillance Review

This review has been suggested and announced by the Deputy Prime Minister, but it will be an independent review conducted by RUSI.

The review into surveillance technologies and the problems of control and oversight will examine surveillance practices in the UK in the context of new communications technologies. It will make recommendations for legislative and policy reform and will report after the next general election.

The particular terms of reference are to:

  • Advise on the legality, effectiveness and privacy implications of UK surveillance programmes, particularly as revealed by the Snowden leaks
  • Examine potential reforms to current surveillance practices, including additional protections against the misuse of personal data, and alternatives to the collection and retention of bulk data
  • Make an assessment of how law-enforcement and intelligence capabilities can be maintained in the face of technological change, while respecting principles of proportionality, necessity and privacy.

The panel will consist of around twelve experts representing the security agencies, government, civil-liberties interests and the communications industry. It will be chaired by Professor Michael Clarke, the Director General of RUSI, and will be staffed by RUSI. It will be financed completely independently; not from government or from any party-political interest.

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