The controversial Investigatory Powers Bill (otherwise known as the Snoopers’ Charter) is now just weeks away from Royal Assent and already a petition is trying to have it repealed.
With over 120,000 signatures, the official petition has already reached the important milestone needed that demands Parliament consider it for debate.
Jim Killock, Executive Director, Open Rights Group has praised the news arguing that the overwhelming focus on Brexit had almost hidden the bill from view until it was too late.
Writing in a blog on the Huffington Post Killock says, “The media, MPs and public were almost entirely preoccupied with the vote and its aftermath when it mattered, in May and June.”
“In those two months, MPs had their major debates, and the campaign against the Bill threw everything we had at raising public consciousness, including a huge media campaign and awareness raising online, but without the kind of response we are seeing now.”
While the petition’s interest will now require the consideration of a Parliamentary debate MPs are under no obligation to actually go ahead with one.
Considering how recent the bill’s approval was and the number of votes that required it to pass there will almost certainly be some reluctance to bring it back into the public sphere.
Killock disagrees however arguing that Parliament, “Can and must do is look again at measures which constitute mass interference into people’s privacy. Parliament may be forced to re-legislate several of the measures in the Bill, as a consequence of legal actions that are soon to come back.”
The bill was not without controversy when it first entered Parliament. While many of its mass surveillance techniques were already being employed by the security services, the bill now gives them full legal backing.
Arguably the most visible of these techniques was the requirement that all internet service providers such as Virgin, TalkTalk and Sky must keep 12 months of internet records for each of its users.
That would mean that the government has access to the last 12 months of websites you visited, the times that you sent messages over an internet service like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and more.
While they wouldn’t be able to read specific messages or see individual pages, they will have access to the domain name e.g. Facebook.com, BBC.co.uk etc.
A blogger then revealed the huge range of government organisations that would then have access to this information, showing it to be 48 government bodies in total ranging from the fire service to the Food Standards Agency.
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