Future scoping attitudes to surveillance in the fight against serious and organized crime

nca_2694881bIn the shadow of the ongoing debate over other Investigative Powers Bill, a debate where much of the rhetoric has been predominantly framed in terms of anti-terrorism and national-security, the National Crime Agency is currently busy with its own internal ‘future scoping’ exercise to examine the UK law enforcement community’s efforts regarding interceptions of communications and associated data. At the heart of this exercise is the question of identifying the boundaries of acceptability of such communications interceptions that delimits ‘policing by consent’ in the fight against serious and organized crime in a democratic society.

As part of this future scoping exercise the National Crime Agency contacted the University of Nottingham to submit a series of questions regarding:

  • Technology
  • Economics
  • Resources
  • Politics
  • Fragmentation

In order to gain insights into potential generational differences in attitudes to the questions, they requested two round-table discussions, one among senior academics from the University, and one among PhD Students and Post-docs. The latter round-table was done at Horizon.

The Technology related questions dealt primarily with the rate of change in communications technologies. The Economics questions focused on globalization of the communications industry and the resulting challenges to national regulation of an internationally operating industry. The Resources questions were geared towards identifying the position of the UK and its ability to fully exploit new communications technologies. On Politics the questions combined concerns about unilateralism (as expressed by Brexit and US elections) with issues about possible inter-generational differences in attitudes towards personal data and the concept of ‘policing by consent’. The final question on Fragmentation was posed more as a statement summarizing the previous points: “Modern communications are increasingly fragmented in terms of technology; social attitudes; political positions; economics and resources. This has led to a wasteful and destructive environment which will ultimately undermine public trust and confidence.”

Overall we hope that we were able to provide some useful answers that will help the National Crime Agency to formulate an approach to surveillance for crime-fighting that respects the concerns of the citizens.

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