Investigatory Powers Bill: Government wants web browsing data stored for a year

Government outlines new draft snooping laws

The UK government has revealed the draft Investigatory Powers Bill (IPB), which includes a restructuring of domestic surveillance and an overhaul of the powers available to police and government agencies.

The controversial bill, which was snubbed during the previous coalition government after privacy concerns, outlines plans to force communications firms and internet providers to store metadata records for 12 months.

Communications service providers (CSPs) will be “obligated” to this data on a mass scale while to provide support to law enforcement, security services and intelligence agencies “in the interests of national security”.

Even overseas companies will not be exempt from these rules. The proposed legislation states: “The draft bill places the same obligations on all companies providing services to the UK or in control of communications systems in the UK.”

Another form of communications data, known as Internet Connection Records (ICRs), will be scooped up by the government. This is essentially a record of ever website visited by the customers of firms such as BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalka and Sky. But the bill states that full browsing history data will not be made available to police. Internet service providers will be required to keep ICRs for 12 months.

The IPB also formally acknowledges a reliance on bulk collection for the first time, which the government admitted collects data on a “large number of individuals” the majority of whom “will not be of any interest to the security and intelligence agencies”.

“Access to bulk data is crucial to monitor known and high-priority threats but is also a vital tool in discovering new targets and identifying emerging threats,” the proposed legislation stated.

“The law provides for the use of interception, communications data and equipment interference powers in bulk. These can be used to obtain large volumes of data that are likely to include communications or other data relating to terrorists and serious criminals.”

The hacking of devices by police and intelligence agencies is also described in detail and form a core part of the Bill.

“Equipment interference allows the security and intelligence agencies, law enforcement and the armed forces to interfere with electronic equipment such as computers and smartphones in order to obtain data, such as communications, from a device,” the draft proposal noted.

“Equipment interference encompasses a wide range of activity from remote access to computers to downloading covertly the contents of a mobile phone during a search.”

Furthermore, the law will introduce this as one way to bypass strong encryption. “Equipment interference plays an important role in mitigating the loss of intelligence that may no longer be obtained through other techniques, such as interception, as a result of sophisticated encryption,” it said.

Home secretary Theresa May said in a statement to the House of Commons that the government has no intention of banning encryption, but that the law will place requirements on firms to hand over encrypted data when necessary.

“On encryption the requirement in second legislation is that those companies that are issued with a warrant should be able to respond to that warrant in an unencrypted format,” she said.

Prior to the release of the bill, Baroness Shields, minister for internet safety and security, said that the government has no intention of weakening or banning encryption.

Yet there remains little clarity on how exactly the government will combat the end-to-end encryption now commonly used in applications such as WhatsApp, iMessage and Snapchat.

Increased oversight
The government explained that the powers will be enforced by a two-tier authentication system meaning that, unlike the current Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), the home secretary will now also need judicial approval to issue spying warrants.

Furthermore, the prime minister will now have to approve any warrant involving professionals in areas that demand privacy, such as doctors, lawyers, journalists and MPs.

Former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said that the bill appeared to be a vast improvement over the stalled Communications Data Bill from 2012.

“I strongly welcome what looks like a more proportionate and targeted approach,” he said, referring to web history data access.

However, he added that the “devil is in the detail” when it comes to assessing whether the bill in its first form will be acceptable or contains similar flaws to others put forward.

But Jim Killock, director of the Open Rights Group, warned that the Investigatory Powers Bill was far more caustic in his assessment of the proposed legislation.

“At first glance, it appears that this bill is an attempt to grab even more intrusive surveillance powers and does not do enough to restrain the bulk collection of our personal data by the secret services,” he said.

“It proposes an increase in the blanket retention of our personal communications data, giving the police the power to access web logs. It also gives the state intrusive hacking powers that can carry risks for everyone’s internet security.”

Renate Samson, chief executive of Big Brother Watch, added: “Demands on technology companies to adhere to warrants for encrypted data, as well as the power to legally hack into our devices, could create legislative back doors which, in a world of increased cyber attacks, could make us more vulnerable to crime.”

The latest bill is a direct result of the much cited A Question of Trust report by David Anderson QC (PDF) earlier this year, which called for reform of current surveillance systems, including RIPA.

“RIPA, obscure since its inception, has been patched up so many times as to make it incomprehensible to all but a tiny band of initiates,” wrote Anderson, who is the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation.

“This state of affairs is undemocratic, unnecessary and – in the long run – intolerable.”

So while reform has been on the horizon for a number of years, the home secretary is confident that this version of the Investigatory Powers Bill is needed for law enforcement to combat terrorism and digital crime.

“We need to update our legislation to ensure it is modern, fit for purpose and can respond to emerging threats as technology advances. There should be no area of cyber space which is a haven for those who seek to harm us, to plot, to poison minds and peddle hatred under the radar,” May said.

“This bill will establish world-leading oversight to govern an investigatory powers regime which is more open and transparent than anywhere else in the world.”

Yet not everyone agrees:

The surveillance bill will now face pre-legislative scrutiny before appearing before Parliament in 2016.

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4 November 2015 | 5:09 pm – Source: v3.co.uk

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