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Internet And The Law Essay

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Technology has advanced dramatically since the start of the 21st Century, especially with the introduction of electronic computers in the 1950s. By the 1960s concepts of the internet had originated in the United States with J.C.R Licklider of MIT1 envisioning a globally interconnected set of computers through which everyone could quickly access data and programs from any site.2 By 1983 the ARPNET3, created by DARPA4 had implemented TCP/IP5 to interconnect various military defence department computer networks. The TCP/IP was designed to set out communication protocols on the internet; this formed the basis of the worldwide internet we use today. Educational institutions soon started to join, until the majority of Europe had joined RIPE6. By 1992 the internet was in full working order and accessible to the world; it introduced organisations such as the Internet Society, an international, non-profit organisation focused on providing information relating to internet issues, such as policy, technology, governance and development. However, as the internet expanded, so did the divide between developing countries; the more advanced nations now at a technical advantage. As the internet has progressed, we have been introduced to more complex and intrusive programmes, including PRISM and Tempora; both are surveillance programmes designed by the United States and United Kingdom Governments as a way of intercepting data.

In recent years, the debate over surveillance and privacy has been heightened through the exposure of secret State documents and the programmes they are using. The debate argues two main points; firstly, the Government believe that the surveillance of all citizens is necessary, and secondly, the public believe surveillance to be in breach of their privacy. Although the use of surveillance has been questioned for many years, the situation has recently escalated due to WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden; both of which have leaked secret Governmental documents and information to the public.

The right to privacy has been argued about for many years in the United Kingdom as it is not directly expressed under the English Law; therefore meaning that no civil action can be taken for an alleged breach of privacy. Although the right to privacy does not fall explicitly under the English Law, there are a number of rights, in various ways, that relate to privacy.7 Under Article 8(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is incorporated into the English Law through the Human Rights Act 1998, it states that “everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.8” However, Article 8(2) states that “there shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”9 Over the past twenty years, Article 8 has introduced a degree of legal accountability for covert police surveillance practices where none existed before10, and although Article 8 does support the ‘right for’ private life, it also sets out guidelines that justify a public authority interfering with that right. However, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 regulates the use of and access to surveillance by public bodies.11 The act was created to replace the Interception of Communications Act12 which came about after the Malone v UK case.13 The original case was Malone v Metropolitan Police Commissioner14 whereby it was discovered that the Police had intercepted Malone’s phone calls due to him b...

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