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Security and privacy: the challenges post-Snowden

Published: Friday, 12th June 2015

The Director’s Note following the Foundation’s recent conference, “Intelligence, security and privacy”, held at Ditchley Park last month, is now published.

This was a fascinating debate examining how the twin needs of security and privacy can be met in modern democracies. It was unexpectedly timely with the US grappling with the consequences of recent legal judgments questioning interception operations by their intelligence agencies, and Congress reactions to them (the Freedom Act was subsequently passed), and the UK considering new powers for its agencies.

Participants did not think that the security agencies were out of control – collection of bulk communications data to help find targets was not the same as mass surveillance - but the conditions of data acquisition and retention, and access to it were legitimate subjects of concern. Oversight and regulation could be improved further, and more transparency provided, without jeopardising operational effectiveness. Finding better ways for data to be shared legally and quickly across national boundaries was one urgent requirement.

There was optimism that relations between private companies and agencies could be regularised and improved post-Snowden, but access would henceforth have to be through front doors not back doors. In any case the flood of data was increasing exponentially, concerns about individual privacy would not go away any time soon, and legislation could not keep up with every change. Participants therefore tried to elaborate some principles of behaviour to which all liberal democracies at least could agree. These are included in the Director’s Note summarising the discussion.

To read the full report click here.