Jim Killock is executive director of Open Rights Group, says Yes
Yes, we should be worried. If you run a business, have commercial secrets, or rely on secure communications like VPNs, there is a lot to be concerned about. UK data is shared with the US so there is little protection for your political or commercial confidentiality. But the worry isn’t just about whether things you do might be of interest to the security services, it is also about the effect on society as a whole. How do we protect journalists and lawyers’ confidential communications when GCHQ can process and share nearly all information it can grab? We need confidentiality to maintain most professional relationships. We have to worry about the oversight as well: the Intelligence and Security Committee itself failed to spot the extent of GCHQ’s mass trawling and hacking activities. We’ve been denied a democratic debate about one of the most critical issues for any country and people.
Robin Simcox is a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, says No
The secret nature of intelligence agencies’ work means there will never be complete transparency. Yet we know that they are certainly not interested in “snooping”. Spies are looking for shards of intelligence that will enable them to stop terrorist attacks and other serious crimes. They have no desire to read random emails or monitor irrelevant phone calls. Further, there are checks and balances in place to ensure they do not misuse their powers. If agencies want to gain access to the content of a terrorist’s email, for example, there must be a signed warrant from a secretary of state. Additional oversight is provided by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee, former high court judges serving as independent commissioners, and the Investigatory Powers Tribunal. Spy agencies keep this country safe from hostile state and non-state actors. They do so while using their powers proportionately and acting within the law. They deserve our thanks, not suspicion.