CensorshipGovernement-ITRegulation

Investigatory Powers Bill Is Passed By Parliament

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Google + Linkedin Subscribe to our newsletter Write a comment

Most Labour MPs join the Conservatives to pass controversial surveillance legislation in Parliament

The controversial Investigatory Powers Bill has been passed by a clear majority of MPs in the Houses of Parliament.

MPs voted 444-69 in favour of the Investigatory Powers Bill, otherwise known as the Snoopers Charter 2.0.

Judge Decision

security and privacyThe vote was interesting as most of the opposition Labour party voted in favour of the legislation. The Scottish National Party (SNP) voted against it on privacy and civil rights grounds.

The legislation has witnessed a turbulent progress through the House of Commons. It has been opposed by many technology firms (including Apple) and ISPs, as it requires Internet Service Providers to store the web browsing history of all their customers, for 12 months, for government spooks.

And it has faced ferocious opposition from civil liberty groups and indeed MPs, forcing Home Secretary to concede a number of concessions.

This has meant that tech firms are not longer required to build backdoors into their encryption processes, and can only be ordered to remove such code if a government request is deemed by a British judge to be technically feasible and not unduly expensive.

The bill also means the government has to reimburse tech firms for the cost of complying with the new legal obligations of the bill, for example storing people’s web browsing history.

Rough Passage

These concessions came after fierce opposition. Earlier this year the Joint Select Committee of MPs said that the “Home Office has further work to do before Parliament can be confident that the scheme has been adequately thought through.”

Shutterstock - © Petar Paunchev - surveillanceThe House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee had also concluded that the draft bill was too vague in its provisions and would require detailed codes of practice in order to ensure it doesn’t prove a disastrous burden on the nation’s IT industry.

To try and settle these concerns, Theresa May recently promised the bill would be subjected to an “independent review” that would examine the powers that allow for the bulk collection of data.

And all of these concessions eventually persuaded the Human Rights Committee last week to give a cautious welcome to the Investigatory Powers Bill.

“It provides far greater transparency, overhauled safeguards and adds protections for privacy and introduces a new and world-leading oversight regime,” the Home Secretary reportedly told parliament.

Campaign Opposition

The arrival of the bill comes after a new poll commissioned by campaign group Liberty revealed that nine out of 10 British adults believe state surveillance powers proposed by the Investigatory Powers Bill are not acceptable.

The House of Lords will now consider the proposed law and it also faces a review by the UK’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC.

He will issued a report on whether the bulk surveillance powers are justified.

All of this data will then be considered before the House of Lords casts its final vote on the bill sometime in the Autumn. If it passes the Lords, the law will go into effect in January 2017.

How much do you know about privacy? Try our quiz!