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 The ISR recommends a complete overhaul of the outdated and unnecessarily complex warrant system for surveillance to provide a clearer and more comprehensive system.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:


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

Home Affairs Committee Report on Counter-Terrorism: Oversight of the Intelligence Agencies

Description: “The oversight of the security and intelligence agencies has long been a matter of concern for this Committee. In reports in 1992 and again in 1997[161] we have recommended that the security service (which is nominally under the purview of the Home Secretary although its head reports directly to the Prime Minister) ought to be subject to scrutiny from the Home Affairs Committee. We have consistently been denied the opportunity to take evidence from senior officials who work in the national security structure and we are highly unimpressed that we had to summon the independent Intelligence Services Commissioner in order to take evidence from him. For information we have attached an analysis on the UK and US systems of oversight of the security and intelligence agencies which examines the plaudits and criticisms of each system (found at Annex B). We believe that the current oversight is not fit for purpose for several reasons which we set out below.”


Author(s): Home Affairs Committee

GCHQ and Mass Surveillance

Description: “The Intelligence and Security Committee has published the findings of its Privacy and Security Inquiry. At the same time Open Rights Group is publishing its own report into the activities of GCHQ and their impact on British citizens.

The consequences of GCHQ’s activities have the potential to harm society, the economy and our foreign standing. These have not been fully explored by Parliament. We hope that this report helps MPs to understand the range of GCHQ’s activities and the fact that they affect ordinary people not just those suspected of threatening national security.”


Author(s): Open Rights Group

Report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner – March 2015

Description: “I regard my principal function as being to satisfy myself, and thus to report to the Prime Minister, that the Secretaries of State and the public authorities operating under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA 2000) Part I (and to a limited extent Part III) do so lawfully and in accordance with the existing legislation. My secondary, but nonetheless important, aim is to better inform the public about what the legislation allows (or perhaps more importantly what it does not allow), how my office carries out its oversight and the level of compliance that the public authorities are achieving. ”


Author(s): Rt Hon. Sir Anthony May

Privacy and Security: A modern and transparent legal framework

Description: “The internet has transformed the way we communicate and conduct our day-to-day lives. However, this has led to a tension between the individual right to privacy and the collective right to security, which has been the focus of considerable debate over the past 18 months.”


Author(s): Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament

Global Information Society Watch 2014

Description: “The reports show, both states and businesses are complicit in communications surveillance. While there is a need for systems to monitor and protect the public from harm, the right to privacy, the transparency and accountability of states and businesses, and citizen oversight of any surveillance system are important advocacy concerns.”


Author(s): Association for Progressive Communications and Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries

The Need for Democratization of Digital Security Solutions to Ensure the Right to Freedom of Expression

Description: “As demonstrated by the Edward Snowden disclosures and other research, mass Internet surveillance as well as targeted digital threats present serious risks to human rights, including the right to freedom of expression and the right to privacy. While governments often justify digital surveillance and censorship efforts on the basis of national security concerns and requirements of access for law enforcement purposes, these methods disproportionately impact civil society actors—NGOs, journalists, activists, and others—that engage in work considered politically sensitive. Independent of attitudes toward the United States and its “Five Eyes” surveillance partners, methods of access to communications content (through technical and non-technical means) have proliferated to states that engage in flagrant human rights violations, as well as non-state actors interested in repression of expression. Civil society is now the target of surveillance activities by a diversity of actors in the West and elsewhere, with significant repercussions for organizations’ and individuals’ ability to advance their missions, as well as their physical safety. The pursuit of unfettered access to individual communications and data by states has thus resulted in a divergence between interests of individual security and those of national security, as defined by governments.”


Author(s): Citizen Lab (Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto) and Collin Anderson to the United Nations Special Rapporteur

Declassified Report: The FBI Oversaw the NSA’s Email Surveillance

Description: “In response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by The New York Times, the Justice Department has partially declassified this report about the F.B.I.’s involvement in administering the warrantless surveillance program authorized by the FISA Amendments Act. When the report was completed in September 2012, it was entirely classified and the department announced only that it existed.”


Author(s): U.S. Department of Justice