It is quietly making its way through parliament swiftly. The Investigatory Powers Bill, which gives security agencies in the UK a greater ability to collect and obtain data to aid criminal investigations, passed its second reading in mid-March. As The Cyber Solicitor released this issue, the bill was being scrutinised in committee meetings. Many privacy advocates and pressure groups sharing similar ideals fear that the bill, which they believe severely undermines privacy, will quickly become law without proper examinations and scrutiny. Describing the timetable for the bill as ‘disgraceful’, these groups and advocates held a parliamentary event in April to urge MPs to more effective challenges against the bill.
However, there may be one major event which may help the bill to prevail once passed; Britain’s EU membership referendum. In particular, if Britons vote to leave the EU, this will essentially mean that Parliament will be able to pass laws with the direct obstruction or influence of European laws. Privacy has always been a great concern for Europe, evident in their data protection laws and also the US-EU Privacy Shield. The continent has never been very favourable of mass surveillance or bulk collection, and may, therefore, hinder Theresa’s bill. However, a vote to leave would free the UK from such obligations and may help the bill to avoid being struck down by European Courts.
Nothing is certain, though. If Britain negotiates a new trading deal with Europe to access the single market, following its data protection rules may be a requirement. But a vote to leave would produce a significant shift in how the UK may go about its IT laws. A vote on June 23rd may be the start of it.