Joint Briefing on the Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Bill

House of Lords, Report Stage (January 2024)

The Snowden revelations and subsequent litigation – some of which is ongoing – have repeatedly identified unlawful state surveillance by UK agencies that took place absent the knowledge of parliamentarians.

Whilst we welcomed the stated intent to regulate the rapidly growing surveillance state via a democratic process, the highly controversial Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (IPA) authorised massive, suspicionless surveillance on a scale never seen before, with few safeguards or independent oversight. The Act is subject to ongoing litigation.

Despite these ongoing and serious concerns about the IPA and its implementation by the security services, the government now seeks to rush through significant privacy-weakening changes to the UK’s surveillance regime.

Among other things, we are concerned that the Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Bill:

  • weakens safeguards when intelligence services collect bulk datasets of personal information, potentially allowing them to harvest millions of facial images and social media data;
  • expressly permits the harvesting and processing of internet connection records for generalised, massive surveillance;
  • expands the range of politicians who can authorise the surveillance of parliamentarians;
  • would force technology companies, including those based overseas, to inform the government of any plans to improve security or privacy measures on their platforms so that the government can consider serving a notice to prevent such changes – effectively transforming private companies into arms of the surveillance state and eroding the security of devices and the internet.

We are also concerned that many of these powers may be incompatible with the UK’s obligations under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

We call on Peers to:

  • Oppose clauses 1, 2, 14, 17, 18, 19 and 20; and 3
  • Significantly amend Clauses 21 and 22 to (1) emphasise the extraordinary nature of powers to surveil parliamentarians and (2) provide additional safeguards to prevent their abuse, such as a post-notification and annual reporting requirement.

Find out more in the full briefing via the link below.

READ the Joint briefing

Briefing on the Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Bill from Big Brother Watch, Internet Society, Liberty, Open Rights Group, Privacy International, and Rights and Security International.

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Published by Open Rights, a non-profit company limited by Guarantee, registered in England and Wales no. 05581537. The Society of Authors, 24 Bedford Row, London, WC1R 4EH. (CC BY-SA 3.0).

About Open Rights Group (ORG): Founded in 2005, Open Rights Group (ORG) is a UK-based digital campaigning organisation working to protect individuals’ rights to privacy and free speech online. ORG has been following the UK government’s proposed reforms to data protection since their inception.