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UK MPs to vote on renewal of “draconian” Coronavirus Act, extending overreaching digital surveillance powers

The UK government's far-reaching response to the coronavirus has crushed many civil liberties.
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UK Members of Parliament (MPs) will vote on whether to renew the controversial UK Coronavirus Act for another six months.

The vote takes place Wednesday September 30 and, if renewed, it would extend the UK government’s far-reaching digital surveillance powers granted under the Act until 2021.

Under the Coronavirus Act, the UK government can appoint new “temporary Judicial Commissioners” (senior judges that authorize surveillance warrants) and these warrants now only have to be reviewed after 12 days instead of the usual three-day renewal requirement.

UK civil liberties organization Liberty has blasted the UK government for “prioritising secret surveillance during the pandemic, making it even easier to spy on us all.”

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Privacy and civil liberties organization Big Brother Watch has also warned that the Coronavirus Act gives the government “draconian powers” and that it’s “the biggest expansion of state power in a generation — and could stay in law for years.”

Big Brother Watch added that “every single charge under the Coronavirus Act — 141 so far — has been found unlawful.”

Liberty, Big Brother Watch, and 18 other rights groups are calling for MPs to repeal the Coronavirus Act during tomorrow’s vote and instead “focus on a response to the pandemic which protects everyone’s human rights and keeps civil liberties intact.”

The pending vote to extend the sweeping surveillance powers granted by the Coronavirus Act follows a series of new UK laws and government proposals that have eroded the civil liberties of its citizens.

The new laws include a contract tracing law that was introduced this month and forces citizens to download a contact tracing app or hand over personal information to use certain businesses.

Since the launch of this contact tracing app, reports have revealed that its Bluetooth technology could be falsely telling up to 30% of users to self-isolate and that it’s also falsely telling people to quarantine when they test negative for the coronavirus.

Other proposals that will mandate further mass data collection and digital surveillance include coronavirus “passports” that give citizens a “passport to mingle” and a digital ID system that will feed off user data from the web.

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