State bids to extend surveillance powers over internet, emails, and encrypted online communications

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Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald intends to bring in changes to legislation to expand surveillance powers to include the internet, emails, and encrypted online communications.

Digital Rights Ireland said a Department of Justice document proposed to allow for interception of “over the top” services, such as webmail or Twitter direct messages, on the basis of the justice minister’s signature.

“No judicial oversight would be required and the overall authorisation, oversight, and complaint mechanisms would be essentially untouched,” it said.

“The proposals aim to extend a deeply flawed system without addressing the fundamental problems which make the existing system in breach of international fundamental rights standards.”

It said surveillance based on political authorisation (rather than judicial warrant) was undesirable, inconsistent with case law and unnecessary.

“Irish law already provides for bugging of buildings and cars to be carried out on the basis of a judge’s decision — there is no reason why leading webmail should be different.”

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