The Haystack and what Brexit means for digital rights in the UK

Still taken from The Haystack documentary on surveillance in the UK. The image shows people walking along a crowded street in central London and a news headline which says 'Britain is too tolerant and should interfere more in people's lives, says David Cameron'

On Monday evening we held a screening of The Haystack surveillance documentary at Birmingham Open Media, followed by a discussion of what the recent Brexit vote means for digital rights.

The Haystack

The Haystack documentary looked at the Government’s plans to significantly expand surveillance in the UK by introducing the Investigatory powers Bill (AKA the Snooper’s Charter).

The Haystack raises serious questions about the Government’s plans, casting doubt not just on the legality of the powers and their negative impact on democracy, but also whether they actually help to keep us safe (their stated objective).

You can watch The Haystack on Vimeo below:

The Haystack from Scenes of Reason on Vimeo.

Digital rights after Brexit

After the screening we had a relaxed discussion about current the state of digital rights over free drinks and pizza which BOM had generously ordered for us (big thanks to Karen, Louise and Sophie for feeding and watering us!).

The latest on the Investigatory Powers Bill

  • The bill made it through the the House of Commons last month. Labour voted with the Government to support the bill after claiming to have secured significant concessions. The SNP,  Lib Dems and the Green Party voted against the bill.
  • The bill is now with the House of Lords and is likely to become law by Christmas.
  • Nationally, the Open Rights Group is working in partnership with other human rights groups to keep up the campaign against the bill.
  • In light of the Brexit vote, the Open Rights Group is calling on the Government to suspend the passage of the bill until the autumn, when a new Conservative leader and Prime Minister is in place. ORG (rightly) believes that with so much else going on, including a wave of Labour shadow cabinet resignations, there is a risk the bill will be rushed into law without proper scrutiny.
  • Open Rights Group will be encouraging supporters to ‘tweet a Lord’. Supporters will be asked to contact members of the House of Lord to encourage them to exercise proper scrutiny and reject the worst aspects of the bill.
  • Read more on the Open Rights Group blog.

What does Brexit mean for digital rights?

  • The EU has been very important to protecting digital rights and challenging surveillance programmes in recent years so the Brexit vote is likley to be significant.
  • In the short term, the UK is likely to remain a member of the EU for at least the next two years. This means it will have to comply with European legal judgement and Europe-wide data protection regulations.
  • As the UK moves to leave the EU, there is a risk politicians could choose to ignore rules and judgements coming from the EU, making it harder to protect digital rights in practice. This is particularly significant because the European Union Court of Justice is due to issue a judgement this month on the legality of certain powers contained in DRIPA, the predecessor to the current Investigatory Powers Bill.
  • If the UK wishes to access the EU single market after Brexit, it is likely to have to put in place data protection and other regulations which are equivalent to EU standards. It is uncertain, however, how standards would be enforced.
  • You can get a more in-depth analysis of what Brexit means for digital rights over on the Open Rights Group blog.

Keep up-to-date with the latest developments

Events are moving very quickly at the moment. The best way to keep up-to-date with developments is via Twitter. Follow @openrightgroup and @OpenRightsBrum.

Please sign up for our mailing list to find out about future meetups and help shape our campaign going forward.

If you can, please also consider joining Open Rights Group. Your support will help ensure Open Rights Group has the resources it needs to keep on fighting for digital rights in these uncertain times.




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