Encrypting Human Rights: The Intertwining of Resistant Voices in the UK State Surveillance Debate

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Encrypting Human Rights: The Intertwining of Resistant Voices in the UK State Surveillance Debate

Stevens, A. and Allen-Robertson, J. (2021) ‘Encrypting human rights: The intertwining of resistant voices in the UK state surveillance debate’, Big Data & Society. doi: 10.1177/2053951720985304.

Abstract
The Snowden revelations in 2013 redrew the lines of debate surrounding surveillance, exposing the extent of state surveillance across multiple nations and triggering legislative reform in many. In the UK, this was in the form of the Investigatory Powers Act (2016). As a contribution to understanding resistance to expanding state surveillance activities, this article reveals the intertwining of diverse interests and voices which speak in opposition to UK state surveillance. Through a computational topic modelling-based mixed methods analysis of the submissions made to the draft Investigatory Powers Bill consultation, the article demonstrates the diversity and intersection of discourses within different actor groups, including civil society and the technology industry. We demonstrate that encryption is a key issue for these groups, and is additionally conflated with a human rights discourse. This serves to unite seemingly
disparate interests by imbuing encryption with a responsibility for the protection of human rights, but also threatens to legitimate corporate interests and distract from their own data-driven activities of surveillance capitalism.