UK Parliament passes Investigatory Powers Bill

Most MPs in the UK House of Commons have agreed to pass the Investigatory Powers Bill, in a vote of 444-69 in favour, most Labour MPs who had appeared to be against the bill voted in favour of it.

GCHQ, Cheltenham
GCHQ, Cheltenham

Most MPs in the UK House of Commons have agreed to pass the Investigatory Powers Bill, otherwise known as the 'Snoopers' Charter' which has been criticised by various human rights groups and privacy advocates for being overzealous with privacy infringements.

In a vote of 444 to 69 in favour, most Labour MPs who had appeared to be against the bill voted in favour of it. The Scottish National Party (SNP) voted against it on privacy and civil rights grounds.

The House of Lords will now discuss the proposed legislation, and the Bill will also go into review by the UK's independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC. The plan is for him to issue a report on whether the bulk surveillance powers are justified.

Once the report is out, it goes into further consideration by the House of Lords, which will cast its final vote on the bill in Autumn. If it passes the House of Lords, the law will come into effect in January 2017.

The legislation comes at a time when a recent survey from human rights advocates Liberty showed that ninety percent of British people believe government surveillance powers contained in new IP Bill are not acceptable. And rather unsurprisingly the survey also said that nearly three quarters (72 percent) don't know anything about the Investigatory Powers Bill, or have never even heard of it.

The Rt Hon Lord Hague of Richmond, the ex-foreign secretary, recently spoke at InfoSecurity Europe on the topic of the Snoopers' Charter and said that describing the IP Bill as a Snoopers' Charter is "ridiculous".

He explained the lengthy checks senior government ministers go through to approve warrants and the amount of judicial review involved in the process - to ensure they aren't used when a less invasive surveillance measure could be used and that when used, are used only to surveil specific individuals.

Although he approves of a “healthy suspicion from the general public”, most of the public would ‘get it' if they could see the process, but obviously can't. “The government does not want to ban encryption, we don't want back doors, we don't want weakening of encryption,” he said, adding: “We're huge advocates of all of these things.”

Despite his pro-encryption view, however, Hague says he's coming at it from the perspective of a person who used to approve surveillance warrants and sees the kind of horrible things they could prevent. And it is for this reason he argues that there is no “absolute right to privacy” in our modern lives. But we do have right to protections.  

A spokesperson from NordVPN commented to SCMagazineUK.com by email that the legilation, “[opens] a door for government to access web browsing data and metadata [which] would make everyone¹s online activity vulnerable as the open gap can be easily accessible to hackers, fraudsters, system dysfunctions and so on. Through collection of metadata, a full profile of someone¹s online habits, preference patterns and personal details can be created. If any of the companies (ISPs & Telcos) or government agencies mishandles Internet user information, the cyber-security breach can become a huge and costly fiasco.With so many stakeholders involved, the likelihood of mishandled data is quite high, as are the repercussions.”