A majority of the UK population believe the government should be able to monitor mass communications in the interests of national security.
That's according to a survey by OnePoll, conducted on behalf of Comparitech.com, which asked respondents for their views on a range of scenarios. The results showed:
- 77 percent of respondents believe the UK government should be allowed to intercept communications when it's related to terrorism
- 65 percent would give them this power in relation to criminal activity
- 44 percent approve of government snooping to uncover tax evasion
- 17 percent agreed authorities could snoop on children whose parents were concerned about them
- and two percent said government should be allowed to eavesdrop to investigate celebrity scandals
The study surveyed a representative sample of 1000 UK adults and found that 49 percent of people believe that national security is more important than personal privacy. Some 47 percent of respondents believe the government already intercepts their communications but 42 percent said it wouldn't concern them if it did.
“Given the high profile spat between Apple and the FBI over the data held on the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone, an individual's right to privacy has once again been called into question,” said Richard Patterson, director at Comparitech. “Tensions are high between the tech industry and government, with many facets to the argument. However, while we wait for the final outcome from the current legal wrangling, it appears that public opinion is in favour of the UK government snooping on its citizens in the interest of national security.”
“While we wait to see the final outcomes of the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill here in the UK, and who will be victorious between the FBI and Apple, what is clear is that individuals need to understand that using electronic communications comes with provisos. On the one hand, laws designed to protect civil liberties shouldn't then be used to provide a safe haven for those compelled to breach them and on the other, consumers shouldn't have to give up their rights to privacy. It's a thorny subject, with many grey areas, making clarity a necessity,” Patterson told the media.