Government pushes forward with Investigatory Powers Bill

March 2, 2016 | 15:41

Tags: #censorship #debate #eric-king #investigatory-powers #ip-bill #jim-killock #privacy #security #snoopers-charter #theresa-may

Companies: #government #open-rights-group

Home Secretary Theresa May has formally introduced the new Investigatory Powers Bill, despite calls for a delay for further modification, with a view to turning what critics call a 'snooper's charter' into law by the end of the year.'

In the new Investigatory Powers Bill, introduced to Parliament yesterday, Home Secretary Theresa May claims that issues raised following critical reports from the Joint Committee, Intelligence and Security Committee, and Science and Technology Committee have been fully addressed - but critics of the Bill, which aims to give the government wider powers of surveillance, claim that the modifications made are far from sufficient and that not enough time has been given over to proper debate.

'The Home Office is treating the British public with contempt if it thinks it’s acceptable to rush a Bill of this magnitude through Parliament. MPs and peers need sufficient time to consider the fundamental threats to our privacy and security posed by the Investigatory Powers Bill. Many have their minds elsewhere, dealing with important decisions about Europe,' claimed Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, of the Bill. 'On first reading, the revised Bill barely pays lip service to the concerns raised by the committees that scrutinised the draft Bill. If passed, it would mean that the UK has one of the most draconian surveillance laws of any democracy with mass surveillance powers to monitor every citizen's browsing history.'

'Rather than a full redraft, we've been given cosmetic tweaks to a heavily criticised, deeply intrusive bill,' agreed Eric King, director of the Don't Spy on Us coalition. 'Reshuffling safeguards, without meaningfully improving protections, authorisations or oversight does nothing to address widespread concerns about mass surveillance. The unsettling absence of a robust, technical detailed, evaluation of those bulk powers means the case still hasn't been made, and Parliament won't have the information it needs to do it's job. There simply isn’t time for proper scrutiny of all these powers in the timeframe proposed. More than 100 experts called on the Home Office to put on the brakes. The government must think again.'

Despite these criticisms, May is pushing ahead with ratifying the Bill into an Act of Parliament that would make it the official law of the land. 'The revised Bill we introduced today reflects the majority of the committees’ recommendations,' she claimed at the publication. 'We have strengthened safeguards, enhanced privacy protections and bolstered oversight arrangements. [The Bill] will now be examined by Parliament before passing into law by the end of 2016. This timetable was agreed by Parliament when we introduced the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act in summer 2014.'

The Don't Spy on Us coalition has prepared a report (PDF warning) detailing flaws in the Bill, with a view to educating members of parliament into voting against the Bill as it currently stands.
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