GCHQ and other spy agencies have to change how they collect data from internet users, according to Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper.
Cooper said Labour wants a significant reform to how surveillance is carried out, and to give the police and others greater powers to tackle cybercrime.
“In the face of growing online crime and abuse, and the use of online communications by criminals and extremists, the police, intelligence and security agencies need to be able to operate more effectively in this digital world,” she told an event hosted by think tank Demos.
“But for them to do so, we also need stronger safeguards and limits to protect our privacy and sustain confidence in their vital work.
“Above all we need the Government to engage in a serious public debate about these new challenges and the reforms that are needed. Online communication and technology is forcing us to think again about our traditional frameworks for balancing privacy and safety, liberty and security.
“The Government can’t keep burying its head in the sand and hoping these issues will go away – they are too important for that.”
Cooper said that the UK needs a major overhaul of the system of independent oversight Commissioners.
“Those who work with the Commissioners commend them for their professionalism and integrity. But their role is constrained by legislation,” she added. “Traditionally they are retired judges with extensive experience. But their oversight is mainly about legal compliance.
“They report to the Prime Minister and few people know who they are or what they do. They remain as much in the shadows as the agencies themselves – and that doesn’t create public confidence in oversight.”
Cooper said the Labour party wants to see stronger safeguards and limits to protect our privacy and sustain confidence in their vital work: “The oversight and legal frameworks are now out of date.
“There are difficult wider challenges about privacy, data and the private sector, and how we protect British citizens’ interests in a global internet where everyone follows different rules.”
The calls come after Home Secretary Theresa May tried to introduce plans to allow police and security services to track emails and other online communications. This “Snooper’s Charter” was blocked by the Liberal Democrats.
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