Control Alt Delete: Time to re-boot the IP Bill

Posted by Silkie Carlo on 09 February 2016

Today the ISC – or to give its full name, the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament – has released a report condemning much of the Government’s Draft Investigatory Powers Bill.

This is noteworthy because the criticism comes not from the mouths of ‘tech nerds’ or rights groups, but from the Government’s own committee for overseeing the affairs of the security services and GCHQ.

So what does it say? Well, basically what Liberty and others have been saying about the Draft IP Bill for weeks – that provisions for protecting our privacy have largely been ignored and are insufficient; and that some powers (like bulk hacking) should be removed from the Bill all together.

They are also pretty damning about the Government’s whole handling of this issue, citing misleading information, inconsistencies and a lack of clarity and due process – concluding that some sections require redrafting.

We couldn’t agree more! This is a hugely important Bill that will affect each of us, yet it is being rushed through without due consideration or proper debate.

The issues are complex and the powers it affords to the Government are astounding – yet still no clear case has been made as to why many of the controversial powers are necessary or how they will make us safer. In fact, the sheer overwhelming amount of data may actually cause important information to be missed.

But don’t just take our word for it, below are just a few of the things the Government’s own Committee had to say.  You can have your say on this too, by supporting Liberty’s Safe and Sound 8 Point Plan.

…it is surprising that the protection of people’s privacy – which is enshrined in other legislation – does not feature more prominently.”

…privacy protections should form the backbone of the draft legislation, around which the exceptional powers are then built (…) Privacy considerations must form an integral part of the legislation, not merely an add-on”

…the Committee has not been provided with sufficiently compelling evidence as to why the Agencies require Bulk Equipment Interference warrants, given how broadly Targeted Equipment Interference warrants can be drawn”

To leave safeguards up to the Agencies as a matter of good practice is simply unacceptable: this new legislation is an opportunity to provide clarity and assurance and it fails to do so”

We fail to see how Parliament is expected to approve any legislation when a key component, on which much of it rests, has not been agreed, let alone scrutinised by an independent body”