SCOTS are among the biggest sceptics of handing police and security services extensive new powers to intercept and store communications data.
An opinion poll found 77 per cent of Scots believe the Westminster Government will ‘abuse its powers to access citizen data’ if the so-called Snooper’s Charter is introduced.
Officially known as the Investigatory Powers Bill, the draft law passed its first reading in the House of Commons in March after Labour and SNP MPs abstained, rather that vote against it.
The new bill requires web and phone companies to store records of websites visited by every citizen for 12 months for access by police, security services and other public bodies.
It also explicitly states, for the first time, the extent to which the security services have powers for the bulk collection of large volumes of personal communications data such as emails or text messages.
But despite the importance of the proposed legislation, only 25 per cent of Scots surveyed said they were aware of it.
READ MORE: The Snooper’s Charter: All you need to know
Almost three-quarters of Scottish respondents said they were against any move by the UK Government to introduce encryption backdoors, at 74 per cent, compared to just 65 per cent of those in London.
The survey of 2,000 adults from across the UK was carried out on behalf of Venafi, a cybersecurity software firm, in April. The results were first published today.
A total of 65 per cent of all respondents said they did not trust the UK Government to look after their data.
The bill be scrutinised at committee stage next month. A final vote on the legislation is not expected until mid-October.
The security services argue new powers are needed in recognition of the fact so much communication is now done online and across social platforms. MI5, the police and GCHQ have previously warned their ability to track potentially dangerous criminals and terrorists would be hampered if new laws were not passed.
Prime Minister Theresa May introduced the bill as home secretary in March, claiming privacy was “hard-wired” into the bill. She told MPs: “We are not talking about looking at people’s web browsing history, we are just talking about that initial point of contact.
“It strictly limits the public authorities that can use investigatory powers, imposes high thresholds for the use of the most intrusive powers, and sets out in more detail than ever before the safeguards that apply to material obtained under those powers.”
Bill Buchanan, professor of computing at Napier University and an authority on cyber security, told The Scotsman in March that many of the bills provisions could already be circumvented. “There are many technical issues involved with the bill,” he said. “One of the most basic ones is that increasingly users are using encryption tunnels, such as for HTTPs, and it will be almost impossible to determine any information that is being requested and accessed.
“Anyone who seriously wants to hide data will use data encryption at its source, and will not even need to use a tunnelled network. The technical challenge involved in this is trivial, and there are a wide range of tools and services around which will provide easy methods of source encryption.”
A spokesman for the Internet Service Providers Association said: “Even our members are not yet fully clear about what the bill will mean for them. It is vital that parliament is provided with a sufficient amount of time to scrutinise the bill.”