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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.

The science and technology joint committee report pushed the government for greater clarification when it comes to practical concerns around the retention of this data. The report reads: "There seems still to be confusion about the extent to which 'internet connection records' will have to be collected. This in turn is causing concerns about what the new measures will mean for business plans, costs and competitiveness."

The joint committee has pushed the government to provide: "Whatever technical and financial support is necessary to safeguard the security of the retained data" in its report, but suggests that the government shouldn't be responsible for 100 percent of the costs.

A spokesperson for UK internet service provider (ISP) BT responded to this obligation by stating: "National security is a critical issue and everyone needs to play their part, including industry. Parliament has long taken the view that the national interest is best served by allowing security and law enforcement authorities access to certain types of data under certain circumstances. We believe there must be a clear legal framework around this regime, one that ensures adequate checks and balances are in place to weigh up any human rights concerns."

ISP Virgin Media said it "does not monitor or control what customers do online but complies with all lawful requests. It is for Parliament to decide where the balance lies between the needs of law enforcement and citizens' privacy.''

ISPs have been cooperating with requests like this since 1984 under obligations outlined in the Telecommunications Act, if requested by the Secretary of State in the interest of national security. This bill looks to write this power into law for the security and intelligence agencies.

The draft bill also outlined a means for ISPs, telecommunications operators and postal operators to receive appropriate contributions to cover the additional costs of these activities.

These providers can appeal requests for data, but only directly to the Secretary of State.

Encryption

Theresa May has been criticised for her response to the issue of encryption in the bill.

The issue for the security services would be that over the top communications services, likeApple's iMessage and the popular WhatsApp messaging service, apply end-to-end encryption to all messages, meaning they can't read them even if they wanted, or were asked to.

In Apple's formal submission to the bill commission the company voiced concern that: "Passages in the bill could give the government the power to demand Apple alters the way its messaging service, iMessage, works" in a way that gives security services the power to eavesdrop on messages, according to The Guardian. Apple CEO Tim Cook has been consistently outspoken in his defense of encryption.

 

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