If passed, the Investigatory Powers Bill will mean the UK has one of the most extreme surveillance laws to be found in a democracy.
The Bill includes police powers to see which websites and apps we use, and bulk surveillance powers for GCHQ. This Bill needs to be amended if it is to become fit for a modern democracy.
What should I say to my MP?
The main messages
- Surveillance should be targeted towards people who are suspected of a crime not the entire UK population. Bulk data collection allows vast amounts of personal information to be gathered and analysed without individual suspicion.
- The Bill would mean that any private and public database can be accessed and analysed through very broad warrants. The Government has admitted that the vast majority of information in these databases will be about people who are not suspected of any crimes.
- The new powers for the Police to access our 'Internet Connection Records' - a database of our online activity in the last 12 months - is invasive and unnecessary. Internet Service Providers, web hosting companies, and parliamentarians have been critical of this power.
- The new "Request Filter" will turn all phone records, mobile phone location data and ICRs into a vast, population-wide police database. This data can be analysed without a warrant.
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Things to say if you want to write a lot
- No other democratic country monitors and collects Internet browsing history to this extent.
- The arguments made for bulk collection powers and Internet Connection Records are built on anecdotes. The operational case needs to provide figures, costs, and be open to scrutiny.
- The Bill will put into statute the extensive and intrusive surveillance powers that were revealed by Edward Snowden. This includes powers of bulk collection and analysis of data collected by tapping Internet cables, ie. Tempora. Laws should not be created to justify and legitimise expensive surveillance programmes that were built without the consent of parliament.
- The Bill includes the security agencies' powers to break into our laptops and mobile phones, including worrying new powers for non-targeted 'mass hacking', which may mean, for example, getting Apple to push out a compromised update to lots of phones. Worryingly, the Bill could force Internet companies to help in hacking their own customers. It also makes it illegal for them to tell anyone what they've been asked to do. Will we be able to trust that we can use any device securely if this law is passed?
- Despite Government assurances that this Bill offers judicial authorisation for the first time, judges will have only a very narrow role. They are only allowed to check that there are grounds for the minister’s decision and that procedures have been followed. In practice this can simply amount to a rubber-stamp, and all the real power rests with Government Ministers.