Communications surveillance in the UK has been an increasingly contentious issue since the early 2000s. The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 is the result of a long series of attempts by the UK government to reform communications surveillance legislation. The consultations on this legislation — and on its precursor, the Draft Communications Data Bill 2012 — offer unique insight into how such efforts generate resistance to surveillance. This article draws attention to the role of communications service providers (CSPs) — who are increasingly being responsibilised to collect and retain communications data — within a multi-actor network of resistance. It also identifies the reasons CSPs gave for resisting these proposed reforms. Content analysis of the consultation documents reveals three themes that were central to the CSPs’ arguments: technology, territory, and trust. The article concludes by considering the implications for understanding resistance to contemporary digital surveillance.
Published: September 2019