Compliance Management, Privacy

UK public approve of Investigatory Powers Bill ‘in spirit’

The UK public broadly approve of the Snooper's Charter, if a recent YouGov poll is anything to go by. The poll, surveying 1729 British adults, found that 51 percent would agree to the government spying on their electronic communications, at least ‘in spirit'.

The survey was commissioned by Redcentric, which provides cloud services to the government. A spokesperson told that the company takes “a great interest in issues that have implications for all their clients and wanted to offer some original research to provide further insight and context to the wider conversation”.

Such measures were put to respondents as questions over the government intercepting private communications like emails, internet browsing history and telephone calls.

While most agreed with letting the government have access to the above categories, there were two notable exceptions: those surveyed seemed slightly less comfortable at the prospect of the government looking at their social media accounts and far less comfortable with the government looking at their bank records and account details, with 57 percent expressing discomfort at the prospect.

The survey also asked about scenarios in which respondents felt it would be appropriate for the government to spy on their private data including terrorism, benefit fraud, tax evasion and smuggling. While the British public approved of the measures in all scenarios, particular approval was reserved for terrorism cases and a slightly more lukewarm sentiment for tax evasion and benefit fraud.

The Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Bill) lays out a number of measures designed to enhance the security of the UK, but is criticised by some human rights groups as a threat to civil liberties and privacy. In essence, it formalises a number of surveillance practices such as bulk interception and making companies put in backdoors for use by security and intelligence agencies.

Perhaps predictably, the IP Bill has had a chilly reception in some corners. But not according to this recent survey which shows an absolute, if slight, majority theoretically agrees with the measures provided in the bill.

Other surveys have not come up with such decisive results, with those surveyed often expressing indifference or ignorance of the bill.

A recent survey of 1602 UK citizens by Broadband Genie found that 33 percent didn't care about the bill. Though 45 percent were against the government spying on their encrypted communications, an overwhelming 75 percent didn't even know the IP bill existed.

At the time, Rob Hilborn, head of strategy at Broadband Genie blamed government for the lack of knowledge: “The government has been pushing this bill through at lightning fast pace, and as a result the general public is largely unaware of what's going on with legislation that will impact us all."

That said, what makes YouGov's poll different is the questions dealt with the ideals inherent in the bill as opposed to actual knowledge of the bill. Even if the public doesn't know about the bill, they still might approve of it as YouGov's recent survey shows. 

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