Security

‘Snooper’s Charter’ Repeal Petition To Be Considered By Parliament

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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The petition is to be considered for parliamentary debate after receiving more than 130,000 signatures

A petition calling for the repeal of the government’s investigatory powers bill – the so-called “Snooper’s Charter” – has been signed by more than 100,000 people, meaning it must be considered for parliamentary debate.

As of Tuesday morning the petition, which describes the bill as “an absolute disgrace to both privacy and freedom”, had received more than 130,000 signatures.

Parliament Government London © anshar Shutterstock 2012

 

Browsing history

The bill has been criticised for legitimising hacking by government security services and for provisions that will oblige Internet service providers to keep records of the services accessed by users.

Service providers are to be required to store the data for one year and provide it to a list of dozens of departments and organisations on demand, including police, military, government, NHS and regulatory agencies.

The bill was proposed by prime minister Theresa May when she was home secretary and was approved by the House of Lords on 19 November.

It currently awaits royal assent to pass into law, which is expected to occur before the end of the year.

Privacy concern

Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, which proposed the petition, said the bill was passed while the public was preoccupied with the after-effects of the EU referendum.

“People appear to be worried about new powers that mean our web browsing activity can be collected by Internet service providers and viewed by the police and a whole range of government departments,” he said in a statement. “A debate would also be an opportunity for MPs to discuss the implications of various court actions, which are likely to mean that the law will have to be amended. ”

Internet service providers have warned the provision to store user data is onerous and creates a security risk as the data is likely to eventually be hacked.

Other challengers argue the provisions should be subject to review by an independent body such as the judiciary.

In June the Human Rights Committee of MPs and peers gave the bill cautious backing, saying it provides “a clear and transparent legal basis for the investigatory powers being exercised by the security and intelligence agencies and law enforcement authorities”.

The bulk data collection powers in the bill are “not inherently incompatible with the right to respect for private life, but are capable of being justified if they have a sufficiently clear legal basis, are shown to be necessary, and are proportionate”, the committee found.

The government has argued the bill grants no new powers, is proportionate and contains sufficient oversight measures, including strong warrants needed to access a user’s detailed browsing history.

Contention

Last year the government dropped some of the more contentious aspects of the bill, no longer requiring service providers to store Internet traffic from companies abroad.

Despite those concessions, the draft Bill faced ongoing criticism from leading tech firms (including Apple), ISPs, privacy campaigners and MPs, who have said the Bill is ‘draconian’ in nature and was ‘rushed’ through Parliament.

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.”

That criticism came after the House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee had earlier 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.

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