Reconceptualise investigatory powers again? an argument for a comprehensive single statute regulating the acquisition of expression-related data for investigative purposes by UK public authorities

Philip Bruce Glover

Research output: Other contribution

Abstract

Communications-related investigatory powers are ostensibly regulated within the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000, under the descriptive headings: 'interception of communications'; 'acquisition and disclosure of communications data' and 'investigation of data protected by encryption'. The scope, legality and extent of these hitherto infrequently examined powers experienced increased scrutiny following the controversial 2013 disclosures of fugitive United States National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, scrutiny generally founded on subjective conceptions of 'privacy', 'intrusiveness' or 'security'. This research however, adopts 'communications' as its conceptual common denominator. It comprehensively explores the separate politico-legal evolution of RIPA's communications-related investigatory powers, whilst identifying and critically analysing alternative statutory provisions that permit circumvention of RIPA's purported human rights-centric integrity. The detailed chronology provides conclusive evidence that current UK Secretaries of State and their executive agencies possess virtually unlimited communications-related information acquisition powers bequeathed by their predecessors. Perhaps more importantly, its simultaneous exposure of an executive culture of secrecy and deference to the UK's intelligence community assists in explaining why any fettering of the current powers will be so difficult to achieve. Drawing from Intelligence Studies, Information Science and Computer Science, this research logically deconstructs RIPA's communications-related powers, finding them more accurately describable as narrowly defined techniques facilitating the acquisition of communications-related data. Consequently, RIPA fails to envisage or regulate all types of acquisition, such as that obtained extra-jurisdictionally or via Computer Network Exploitation, thus partially legitimizing the status quo. The research also examines RIPA's seemingly all-encompassing definition of 'communication', finding it under-utilised, in that communications from the mind into electronic storage ('expression-related data') are not included. Consequently, the boundaries between 'communication', 'expression' and 'property,' and between RIPA's powers and those enabling Computer Network Exploitation are currently unnecessarily complicated. It concludes by recommending the enactment of a single statute regulating all investigative expression-related data acquisition.
Original languageEnglish
TypeDoctoral Thesis
PublisherUniversity of Aberdeen
Number of pages317
Place of PublicationAberdeen
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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