UK spying watchdog is as confused as the rest of us by new surveillance bill

UK spying watchdog is as confused as the rest of us by new surveillance bill

The new Investigatory Powers Bill currently being considered by the UK parliament has yet again come under fire, this time from the body that is charged with overseeing the work of GCHQ, MI5 and MI6.

The Intelligence and Security Committee has warned that the bill has a “piecemeal” approach to user privacy that “lacks clarity and undermines the importance of the safeguards associated with these powers.”

It has recommended adding an entirely new section to the bill to ensure that privacy “is an integral part of the legislation rather than an add-on.”

The committee says it has not been convinced of the need for bulk equipment interference or bulk personal dataset collection and has suggested that warrants for these are removed from the bill.

It has also called the bill’s current approach to the examination of communications data “inconsistent and confusing.”

The report outlines the desire to consolidate all existing powers into a comprehensive framework but says:

Taken as a whole, the draft Bill fails to deliver the clarity that is so badly needed in this area. The issues under consideration are undoubtedly complex, however it has been evident that even those working on the legislation have not always been clear as to what the provisions are intended to achieve. The draft Bill appears to have suffered from a lack of sufficient time and preparation.

The government has been accused of rushing through the new ‘Snooper’s Charter’ law as a result of a sunset clause in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 that is set to expire.

Civil liberties organization Open Rights Group has welcomed the committee’s findings but warns that any changes must also be given the right amount of time to be properly assessed.

Open Rights Group’s executive director Jim Killock said:

There have been suggestions that a new version of the Bill will be published by the end of February. The Home Office needs a lot longer than two weeks to redraft their bill. Theresa May must ensure that the ISC’s very serious and considered demands are dealt with in full. Rushing through legislation has to stop. It’s time for a proper debate about whether bulk surveillance powers are acceptable in a democracy like the UK.

This latest harsh critique comes after tech firms, the defense industry and numerous experts have criticized everything from the timeline to the provisions outlined.

➀ Intelligence and Security Committee [via BBC]

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