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Snooper's Charter: What you need to know about the Investigatory Powers Bill

Scott Carey | June 8, 2016
What you need to know about the Investigatory Powers Bill, how it may affect your communications and the response so far.

5. Judicial oversight: "The government has given significant ground on this issue and the bill is stronger as a result, however we believe it could be stronger still [...] I have previously shared concern that this leads to a narrower test looking at only the process and reasonableness of the home secretary's decision, rather than actual merits and substance of the warrant."

May had earlier reassured the house that judicial commissioners will have access to the same information about a warrant as the home secretary. Burnham recognised this, but continued: "If this is the case why not delete the judicial review clause? To make it absolutely clear that this is not just a double lock, but an equal lock."

6. Misuse of the powers: "There needs to be safeguards for the collection of data in a lawful manner and we must also agree that there needs to be an overarching law for the obtaining of data and any use that data is subsequently put to. Both should be a criminal offence."

What next? The bill now enters the committee stage, where the government has the opportunity to make amendments following the issues raised during the second reading. The bill will then return to the House of Commons for the report stage, where MPs have their final opportunity to debate and vote on the bill ahead of the third and final reading and vote.

First reading

The Home Office published the investigatory powers bill on March 1. Following criticism from three joint committees: the science and technology committee on February 1, the intelligence and security committee on February 9 and most importantly, the joint committee for the bill itself on February 11, Home Secretary Theresa May claimed that the revised bill "reflects the majority of the committees' recommendations."

The joint committee for the draft investigatory powers bill made 86 recommendations for changes to the bill in its report, concentrating on issues of clarity, judicial oversight and justification of the various powers. For a summary of these suggestions skip ahead one section.

Addressing these specific concerns, May said of the revised bill: "We have strengthened safeguards, enhanced privacy protections and bolstered oversight arrangements."

Not everyone agrees with this assessment though. Dr. Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International said: "It would be shameful to even consider this change cosmetic [...] The continued inclusion of powers for bulk interception and bulk equipment interference - hacking by any other name - leaves the right to privacy dangerously undermined and the security of our infrastructure at risk."

The headlines

When the bill was first proposed Clause 71 led the news agenda. This requires web and phone companies (CSPs) to store records of websites visited by every citizen for 12 months for access by police, security services and other public bodies.


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