As Brexit Dominates News, Investigatory Powers Bill Sneaks in Under the Radar
As Brexit Dominates News, Investigatory Powers Bill Sneaks in Under the Radar
By Kristopher Wilson / theconversation.com
Jul 1, 2016

Days after Britain and the world reeled from the result of the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, it’s back to business as usual for the House of Lords. This week the Investigatory Powers Bill was given its second reading, and it’s interesting to see how their Lordships approached scrutinising the wide-ranging powers of this controversial bill.

The Investigatory Powers Bill is intended to create a comprehensive framework that governs the way police, security and intelligence agencies intercept, store and use personal data. The current provisions are scattered across many different pieces of legislation, and do not always reflect current practice or technology. The bill goes beyond telephone records to include what it defines as internet connection records, a log of visits to websites, and the use of apps such as Apple’s iMessage, and WhatsApp, owned by Facebook.

The bill itself has been subject to substantial scrutiny as it passed through various House of Commons committees – including a joint committee made up of MPs and Lords – and has seen several amendments. To the government’s credit, it has been open to suggestions and as a result the bill garnered cross-party support.

Nevertheless, the bill’s powers pose issues of individual privacy, access to personal data, judicial review, the use of internet connection records, and particularly the practice of bulk interception by security services and the use of strong encryption. The second reading gives an impression of the approach that the Lords will take.

Theresa May introduced the bill to parliament in March this year. Andy Rain/EPA

Certainly, those who contributed to Monday’s debate have experience in the activities this bill covers. Many possess considerable knowledge of the workings of the police and security services, have been part of the pre-legislative committees, held senior positions in security services or come from professions and industries that would be affected by the bill. But while this should be reassuring, a few patterns become immediately apparent.

A balancing act

The overriding theme of the members' contributions was the need to balance the protection of privacy with ensuring national security. Most were supportive of the framework the bill proposed for issuing warrants and for judicial review. Attention was paid specifically to the need to restrict the range of offences that could lead to a data interception warrant being authorised. Suggested in particular from the Labour benches by Lord Richard Rosser and Baroness Dianne Hayter, the initial preference is to limit this to serious crimes.

However, given the backgrounds and experience of many of those contributing to the debate, it’s clear and perhaps concerning that national security concerns, not personal privacy, are the primary factor in making that decision. The Conservative Lord Tom King, a former chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee that oversees the work of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, relied on a series of statistics on the use of communications data in prosecutions and counter-terrorism activities, before going on to defend the general sensibility and honour of those working in the UK’s security services.

The notion that there should be a sound legal basis for reviewing state sanctioned invasion of privacy does not amount to disputing the integrity of security personnel. But given such views are present among the Lords, we can expect to see some serious scrutiny of the argument for the protection of privacy as well as vocal support for the operational requirements of the relevant agencies.

The collection of internet connection records and bulk interception of data received a decidedly mixed response. The plans would require ISPs to store web access records for each individual internet user, recording the domain visited and time of access (among other data to be confirmed).

Some lords compared this to telephone call records, but Liberal Democrat Lord Ken MacDonald, addressing broader privacy concerns, pointed out that recording web activity could reveal intimate personal data, granting knowledge of “people’s lifestyles, beliefs, sexual practices, health and perfectly legal secrets”. There’s likely to be debate on this topic and amendments to the bill, especially given the doubts expressed toward the arguments for collecting internet connection records. As Liberal Democrat Lord Jonathan Oates said:

The government have not approached the issue by demonstrating where a lack of data is obstructing criminal investigations and then exploring how to tackle it … that is not evidence-based policy-making; it is policy-based evidence making and we should not accept it unless we have some much better answers.

Perhaps the most concerning aspect was the lack of discussion about encryption. The issue was raised only by the Liberal Democrat Lord Paul Strasburger, and briefly dismissed in the concluding remarks of Conservative Lord Richard Keen. The bill as it currently stands places an obligation on service operators to provide access to encrypted data in its decrypted form “where reasonable”. This might require companies to redesign their communication applications, sacrificing the privacy of their users.

This fundamentally undermines the point of encryption, and the implications for industries that rely on the safeguards strong encryption provides, such as shopping, finance and banking, requires very careful consideration – but in light of their Lordships' discussions so far that seems unlikely at this stage.

0.0 ·
0
Trending Today
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 11,888 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
Trump Is a Symptom of a Sickness That Is Raging All Across The World
1 min · 11,148 views today · This is why we are here. And this is what we need to remember. 
What Is My Activism Really About? to Love, Serve and Remember
Tim Hjersted · 4,199 views today · I have made a promise to this world that I will carry with me to my last days. It is my vow to lessen the suffering of the world while I am here - it is to ensure that every...
Deconstructing Hierarchies: On Contrived Leadership and Arbitrary Positions of Power
Colin Jenkins · 3,955 views today · Bosses don't grow on trees. They don't magically appear at your job. They aren't born into their roles. They are created. They are manufactured to fulfill arbitrary positions...
Escape! From the Cult of Materialism (2016)
50 min · 2,589 views today · Does the philosophy of materialism work to destroy our identities, experience, and environment? Join narrator Daphne Ellis on a radical romp through the evidence and decide for...
Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss: Bracing for Trump's Anti-Worker, Corporate Agenda
Colin Jenkins · 2,302 views today · Rich people don’t have to have a life-and-death relationship with the truth and its questions; they can ignore the truth and still thrive materially. I am not surprised many...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 2,139 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Why It's Crucial for Women to Heal the Mother Wound
Bethany Webster · 1,355 views today · The issue at the core of women’s empowerment is the mother wound
Thoughts on the Eve of the Trump Regime
Mark Corske · 1,239 views today · A blend of dread, disgust, rage, and despair for the future, all in a state of shocked disbelief—if you feel something like this facing the Trump regime’s ascent to power...
Stunning Photos By Alexander Semenov Showcase The Alien Beauty Of Jellyfish
Earth Porm · 978 views today · Jellyfish appear like beautiful aliens in Alexander Semenov’s photography, calling a new attraction to a magical species of marine life. Alexander Semenov is a marine...
Looking Forward to the Day That Nationalism Is as Reviled as Racism
Tim Hjersted · 906 views today · Nationalism is a form of geographical racism that makes some lives matter more than others, and explicitly justifies that logic without apology. While today, not even lying...
The Myth of Romantic Love May Be Ruining Your Health
Susanne Vosmer · 884 views today · Romantic love in Western societies is often portrayed in a stereotypical way: two yearning halves, who search for each other to find their complete, original state. Few find...
Trump: The Illusion of Change
Helena Norberg-Hodge · 827 views today · “Only by restoring the broken connections can we be healed.” — Wendell Berry
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 710 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 629 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 509 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
The Invention of Capitalism: How a Self-Sufficient Peasantry was Whipped Into Industrial Wage Slaves
Yasha Levine · 508 views today · “…everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious.” —Arthur Young; 1771 Our popular economic wisdom says that...
Positive Thinking in a Dark Age: A Guide to Gracefully Losing Faith in a Collapsing Dominant Culture
Jim Tull · 449 views today · I recall a Buddhist parable involving a stick that appears from a distance to be a snake, causing fear to rise in the perceiver. As the perception shifts upon closer...
10 Female Revolutionaries That You Probably Didn't Learn About In History class
Kathleen Harris · 375 views today · We all know male revolutionaries like Che Guevara, but history often tends to gloss over the contributions of female revolutionaries that have sacrificed their time, efforts...
Supporters 'Ecstatic' After Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning's Sentence
Nika Knight · 294 views today · Whistleblower to be released from military prison in May
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
As Brexit Dominates News, Investigatory Powers Bill Sneaks in Under the Radar