DSOU coalition calls for complete re-write of Investigatory Powers Bill

The Don’t Spy on Us coalition has called for the Home Office to re-write the draft Investigatory Powers Bill following the publication of a third report that includes serious criticisms of the draft Bill.

The Joint Committee into the Bill made 86 recommendations that included calls for the Home Office to:

  • Make the operational case for bulk surveillance powers, bulk personal datasets
  • Clarify the feasibility of compelling the collection of Internet Connection Records
  • Justify bulk communications data retention, which it recognises as intrusive
  • Clarify that the bill won’t compel companies to weaken encryption or insert back doors
  • Provide more safeguards for intelligence sharing to prevent human rights abuses.

Earlier this week, the Intelligence and Security Committee criticised the draft Bill for its lack of clarity and consistency saying that: “The draft Bill appears to have suffered from a lack of sufficient time and preparation.” Prior to that the Science and Technology Committee highlighted that the cost and complexity of implementing the Bill posed a threat to the UK tech sector. 

In light of all three reports, the Home Office cannot rush through this legislation. Anything but a compete re-write would be unacceptable.

Comment from Don't Spy on Us members:

Gabrielle Guillemin, Senior Legal Officer at ARTICLE 19 said:

"This is the second major report this week that is critical of the government’s mass surveillance plans. The message is clear: if the government wants to live up to its promise of a ‘world-leading oversight regime’, it must go back to the drawing-board and make freedom of expression and privacy protections the backbone of its surveillance legislation.”

“The Joint Committee and the Intelligence and Security Committee both agree that the Bill has major flaws. If the British government wants to ensure that any new surveillance regime is compatible with fundamental rights and rule of law, strong protection for freedom of expression and privacy must be at the heart of this Bill. Anything less than a serious redraft of the Bill would signal that the government no longer has British citizens' hard-won civil liberties at the forefront of its mind." 

Renate Samson, Chief Executive of Big Brother Watch said:

“The draft Bill, roundly lambasted for its lack of clarity, technical weakness, incomprehension and inconsistency, has found a warily supportive friend in the Joint Committee tasked at scrutinising it’s proposals.

“There will be temptation from the Home Office to see this report as a green light but they should tread cautiously. Whilst the Committee have only proposed some fine tuning recommendations, they pointedly refer to the Intelligence and Security Committee and the Science and Technology Committee, whose reports struck savage blows at the draft Bill, including calls for privacy to be made the “backbone” of surveillance law.

“Whilst this report is far from damning, the mild mannered recommendations should raise serious concern in Theresa May’s team that all is far from well with the Bill. A great deal of work must be done to satisfy the calls from all three Committees.”

Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN said: 

"Freedom of expression depends on a reasonable expectation of privacy, but the recent parliamentary reports show that that the Home Office has not yet delivered.

The Joint Committee has identified a number of flaws with the draft legislation, including the lack of coherent protection of journalistic material. The Bill needs an urgent rewrite, to include the recommended measures to safeguard journalists’ sources."

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.

“The Government needs to pause, take stock and redraft – to do anything else would show astonishing contempt for parliamentarians’ concerns and our national security.”

Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group said:

"This is the third report that criticises the Investigatory Powers Bill, showing a troubling lack of clarity and evidence for the powers that are being demanded. Theresa May can no longer claim that this is a 'clear and comprehensible' piece of legislation.

The Home Office needs to address the recommendations of all three reports and undertake a major re-write of the Bill before it is laid before Parliament."

Gus Hosein, Executive Director of Privacy International, said:

"The Home Secretary called this draft bill a ‘Gold Standard’ but no one in this country but her seems to believe it. Across the board, civil liberties groups, journalists, lawyers, tech companies including the likes of Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo and Microsoft and now three Parliamentary committees have expressed deep concerns about the Investigatory Powers Bill.

The Intelligence and Security Committee, which reported earlier this week said the report had been rushed, was unclear, lacked transparency and had insufficient privacy safeguards. And the Science and Technology Committee concluded that the Bill could undermine the UK tech sector. While the Joint Committee report has taken a softer line than both reports, taken together they provide a very clear roadmap for the Home Office to fix a badly broken Bill.

We urge the Home Office to take time, step back and address the wide range of concerns that have been presented to them since the draft Bill’s publication in November. Go back to the drawing board and bring back a true Gold Standard for democracies across the world."

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