Managing ‘Threats’: Uses of Social Media for Policing Domestic Extremism and Disorder in the UK

Description: “The research examines two key areas of social media practices for policing: 1) the ways in which social media communication and data becomes identified as potential domestic ‘threats’ and 2) the ways in which the police engages with social media to manage and minimize those ‘threats’.”


Author(s): Lina Dencik, Arne Hintz, Zoe Carey, Hina Pandya from Cardiff University

Report: A Democratic Licence to Operate (RUSI)

The Independent Surveillance Review (ISR) [1] was undertaken at the request of the then deputy Prime Minister partly in response to the allegation of mass surveillance made by Edward Snowden’s leaks of intelligence documents. The panel consisted of twelve members from government, industry, academia, civil society and Parliament, and was formed to assess the allegations with the primary focus on the interception and use of private communications and related data. The panel identified three key areas of consideration for the government,a heuristic of ten tests for the intrusion of privacy, and twenty concrete recommendations.

The three areas of considerations are the process of authorisation for an intrusion into a citizen’s life, an effective oversight regime to hold actors to account, and increased transparency of new legislation set before Parliament through more public deliberation. The ISR recommends a complete overhaul of the outdated and unnecessarily complex warrant system for surveillance to provide a clearer and more comprehensive system. The current patchwork oversight regime should be reformed and reorganised to be more streamlined, robust and systematic. Finally, the implicit secrecy granted to government is considered to be illegitimate and should be replaced by a transparant legislative procedures in Parliament.

To address these areas of concern effectively, the panel established a heuristic of ten tests for the intrusion of privacy. The tests clarify key legal principles such as the rule of law, and the concepts of necessity and proportionality. More specifically, they describe the limits to secrecy, the value of oversight, and the importance of international cooperation.

The concrete recommendations address areas such as legislation reform, the mandates for actors in surveillance, the importance safeguards, a new warranty regime, procedural issues, and establishing new official bodies. The first recommendation highlights the importance over a legislative reform into one dedicated act to replace the current patchwork of applicable laws and unclear definitions. Further, the panel recommends the establishment of new bodies, such as the Advisory Council for Digital Technology and Engineering and a new National Intelligence and Surveillance Office. The panel also recommends a more rigid system of warrants, differentiating between specific and bulk collection warrants, which would be overseen by independent judicial commissioners. Citizens should have the right to appeal to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which itself should operate more transparently.

The panel criticises antiquated laws that has not kept pace with technological progress. The trade-offs between national security, public safety and individual privacy in Britain’s technology-dependent and data-based society must be done in an informed and transparant manner.


[1] Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, “A Democratic Licence to Operate”. July 2015. Available at:


Encrypting Your Laptop Like You Mean It

Description: “Time and again, people are told there is one obvious way to mitigate privacy threats of all sorts, from mass government surveillance to pervasive online tracking to cybercriminals: Encryption. As President Obama put it earlier this year, speaking in between his administration’s attacks on encryption, “There’s no scenario in which we don’t want really strong encryption.” Even after helping expose all the ways the government can get its hands on your data, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden still maintained, “Encryption works. Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on.”

Web Link

Author(s): The Intercept

Government Releases Once-Secret Report on Post-9/11 Surveillance

Description: “In response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by The New York Times, the government has declassified a 2009 report by five agencies’ inspectors general about the Stellarwind program, the group of N.S.A. warrantless wiretapping and bulk phone and e-mail records collection activities initiated by President George W. Bush after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In 2009, the government released a 43-page unclassified version which omitted discussion of many key facts that then remained secret.”

Web link

Publisher: New York Times

How to Detect Sneaky NSA ‘Quantum Insert’ Attacks

Description: “Among all of the NSA hacking operations exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden over the last two years, one in particular has stood out for its sophistication and stealthiness. Known as Quantum Insert, the man-on-the-side hacking technique has been used to great effect since 2005 by the NSA and its partner spy agency, Britain’s GCHQ, to hack into high-value, hard-to-reach systems and implant malware.”

Web link

Author(s): Wired

Off-the-Record Communication, or, Why Not To Use PGP

Description: “Quite often on the Internet, cryptography is used to protect private, personal communications. However, most commonly, systems such as PGP are used, which use long-lived encryption keys (subject to compromise) for confidentiality, and digital signatures (which provide strong, and in some jurisdictions, legal, proof of authorship) for authenticity.”

Web link

Author(s): Nikita Borisov – UC Berkeley, Ian Goldberg – Zero-Knowledge Systems, Eric Brewer – UC Berkeley

The Darknet and Online Anonymity

Description: “A very small proportion of websites use sophisticated anonymity systems, which allow their operators to conceal their identity if they wish to. This part of the web is commonly referred to as the darknet. The darknet helps citizens to protect their security and privacy and to circumvent censorship. It also facilitate organised crime, such as the billion dollar drug market known as Silk Road. This POSTnote discusses the challenge of preventing such crimes without compromising the other uses of anonymity technologies.”

Web link

Publisher: Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

Public Perceptions of Privacy and Security in the Post-Snowden Era

Description: “Privacy evokes a constellation of concepts for Americans—some of them tied to traditional notions of civil liberties and some of them driven by concerns about the surveillance of digital communications and the coming era of “big data.” While Americans’ associations with the topic of privacy are varied, the majority of adults in a new survey by the Pew Research Center feel that their privacy is being challenged along such core dimensions as the security of their personal information and their ability to retain confidentiality.”


Author(s): Pew Research Center