The human rights group Liberty has called on a major redraft of the government's Investigatory Powers Bill, otherwise known as the 'Snoopers' Charter' after the Joint Committee on the IPB found that 'significant changes' were needed.
The Joint Committee report found that "important clarity is lacking" from the current draft around the areas of encryption, bulk powers and internet connection records.
Liberty has responded to the report saying that, 'important changes should be made to provisions regarding encryption to make clear the Government cannot insist on “backdoors” or preventing end-to-end encryption.'
While the Home Office clarified that it would not be creating 'backdoors' in encryption, both the committee and Liberty have argued that there is simply not enough clarity in the bill around this area.
Liberty goes even further though arguing that the bill's demands for data collection could significantly clash with the Charter of Fundamental Human Rights.
Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, said: “This report shows just how much homework the Government has to do on this landmark legislation. Despite reams of evidence from the Home Office, the Committee finds the case for unprecedented powers to bulk hack, intercept and collect our private data has not been made.
Liberty has, along with MPs David Davis and Tom Watson, taken the bill to theCourt of Justice of the European Union where it hopes to prove that the mass collection of data outlined in the bill is a direct contravention of the charter.
Both parties are fighting against a particular aspect of the IPB which requires that telecommunications companies like O2, TalkTalk or BT should hold communications data of everyone in the UK for up to 12 months.
Known as Internet Connection Records (ICRs) these can include everything from a timestamp on a WhatsApp message to the location of a Skype call.
This is something that the Joint Committee and Liberty agree on with the JC's findings concluding that while 'the Committee sees the desirability of ICRs, but is not persuaded that enough work has been done to conclusively prove the case for them.'
Liberty has outlined a key list of the Joint Committee's findings that it feel should be enacted on the bill before it goes any further:
- The case for bulk surveillance powers has not been made – and such powers have the potential to breach the Human Rights Act (pp 88-90).
- Bulk communications data retention is especially intrusive and requires further justification – and is currently subject to legal challenge by Liberty and MPs Tom Watson and David Davis (p 97).
- So-called “thematic warrants” for interception and hacking are too broad and must be re-drafted so they cannot be used to target large groups of people (p 117).
- No formal case has been made for the retention of Bulk Personal Datasets (BPDs) – huge files containing personal information about vast numbers of people (p 101).
- Important changes should be made to provisions regarding encryption to make clear the Government cannot insist on “backdoors” or preventing end-to-end encryption (pp 76-79).
- Protections for journalists’ and lawyer-client communications should be added to the face of the Bill (p119).
- Justifications for surveillance must be tightened, and national security defined in legislation; intelligence-sharing safeguards are insufficient – and this may further human rights abuses; and the Government should reconsider its proposal to enforce extra-territoriality.