Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has published an amended of the UK government’s proposed surveillance laws designed to give law enforcement and security agencies the ability to obtain information and data relating to criminal suspects more easily. The revision of the bill is in response to a wave of criticism which hit the initial version, of which privacy advocates, data protection agencies, technology companies and some MP’s were largely dissatisfied with. In all, most of the 129 recommendations that were suggested by three parliamentary committees studying the original draft have been acknowledged in the updated version.
Despite the changes, however, controversy is likely to remain. One of the amendments, which includes an obligation for technology companies to unlock encrypted data applied by them upon request. This a detail which companies such as Apple and Google, have opposed from the offset. Even the bill’s euphemism in only requiring technology companies to remove encryption when it is practicable to do so, it still poses cybersecurity risks and brings up civil liberty issues of which those very technology company’s have emphasised repeatedly.
Even with all the new changes, the bill still fails to include any judicial oversight of when retaining internet connection records. This is something which privacy advocates have been highly concerned about and has even worried some MP’s. This may be challenged in court, and will certainly be problematic for European courts who are particularly protective of civil liberties and individual rights.
The UK government plans to bring the amended bill to the House of Commons later in March, sent to the House of Lords by the end of April and officially make it law by the end of the year. Some have criticised this process as an unnecessary rush, and that working with the technology industry over a longer time period would help to better resolve the issues still present. Though even if the bill is put on fast-track, opposers will do their best to obstruct it. The Investigatory Powers Bill, despite its changes, is still not a done deal.
Read our cover story for the March issue of The Cyber Solicitor titled ‘The Snooping State’ for more in-depth analysis of the this subject.