Few will need reminding today is the day Donald Trump gets sworn in as President of the US. But it’s not just millions of Americans worried for their future under a Trump administration: four out of five Brits are afraid that the incoming president will use their personal data for his personal gain.
That’s according to a poll commissioned by digital rights group Privacy International to coincide with Trump’s inauguration. The online poll was carried out by YouGov, between January 15 and 16, with 1,645 adults surveyed and the data weighted to be representative of the UK population.
Why should Brits be afraid of what the incoming president means for their personal data? Because of historical intelligence sharing links between the two nations. And the fact the UK recently passed expansive new surveillance legislation that cements bulk collection as a core state investigatory strategy, including hacking en masse.
The new UK law also places a new data retention requirement on ISPs to collect and store all users’ web activity for a full 12 months. Every website visited, app downloaded, service accessed. This data does not even require a warrant for government agencies to access.
The vast majority (three-quarters) of respondents to Privacy International’s poll said they want the UK government to explain what safeguards exist against Trump misusing their personal data.
A majority of the respondents also said they do no trust Trump to only use surveillance powers for “legitimate reasons”.
Privacy International notes that the historical UKUSA agreement , which was drafted shortly after World War II , allows UK and US agencies to “share, by default, any raw intelligence, collection equipment, decryption techniques, and translated documents”.
Current intelligence sharing agreements are thought to expand the US-UK intelligence arrangements further still — with some recent secret intelligence sharing activity having been judged to have been illegal prior to December 2014, after details emerged in the wake of NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden’s 2013 disclosures.
“Today, a new President will take charge of US intelligence agencies — a President whose appetite for surveillance powers and how they’re used put him at odds with British values, security, and its people,” writes Privacy International’s Edin Omanovic in a statement.
“Given that our intelligence agencies are giving him unfettered access to massive troves of personal data, including potentially about British people, it is essential that the details behind all this are taken out of the shadows. Secret powers overseen by secret mechanisms are not good enough: it is vital that we know more about what data Trump will get and how this is overseen.”
Since the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act was passed late last year a petition calling for the law to be repealed has garnered more than 200,000 signatures.
Civil rights group Liberty is also crowdfunding a legal challenge to the various bulk powers authorized by the Act, arguing they are unlawful in light of a recent European Court of Justice ruling stating that EU Member States cannot impose a “general obligation to retain data on providers of electronic communications services”.
The organization’s crowdfunding campaign to fund a High Court review has exceeded £50,000 — still with 19 days of fundraising remaining.