The Home Office has published the Investigatory Powers Bill, which expands the powers of the police and security services to gather and access online data. The stated aim is to ensure the police and security services keep pace with the modern world and continue to protect the British public from the many terrorist and criminal threats they face.
The Bill was introduced before Parliament on 1 March 2016 and will force internet service providers to store browsing records for 12 months. It also expands the purposes for which police can obtain ‘internet connection records’, that is details of the websites and online applications people use.
The first draft of the Investigatory Powers Bill was published in November 2015. It was scrutinised by three Parliamentary committees, all of which raised concerns about its clarity and implementation and the impact this would have on privacy protections.
Home Secretary Theresa May has called the Bill “vital legislation” and vows the Government is “determined to get it right”. The Government’s press page cites the Bill’s oversight arrangements as ‘world-leading’ and says the Bill is scheduled to pass into law before the end of 2016.
However, the Bill has met resistance from critics who say that the law needs more time to be truly “world-leading” and should not be rushed through Parliament this year. A number of MPs, academics and professionals have signed an open letter calling for a longer consultation period to get surveillance laws right.
Criticism from campaigners
Campaigners such as Amnesty International have criticised the government’s “blundering on with its snooping power-grab” and have said the surveillance measures “go too far, too fast”. Liberty have said the changes made to address the Committees’ concerns are “minor botox” and have not fixed this bill. Dr. Gus Hosein, Executive Director of Privacy International said the Bill is truly world-leading, for all the wrong reasons.
The Bill was introduced to the House of Commons on 1 March 2016. It will be debated by the House of Commons in its second reading, the date of which will be announced soon.
For more on the right to privacy and why it matters see our explainer post here.