Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Response from Nicola Blackwood on Investigatory Powers Bill

I sent Nicola Blackwood MP, Chair of the Commons Science and Technology Committee, a copy of my submission to the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill Joint Committee.

I received her response this morning -
"Dear Ray,

Thank you for contacting me about the Investigatory Powers Bill and for attaching your submission to the Joint Committee. Please accept my apologies for the delay in my response, which is due to the high volume of correspondence I’ve received in recent weeks.

You raise some interesting points which will most certainly be considered by the Joint Committee. I look forward to hearing their response in due course. I have consistently said that it is absolutely essential that powers to monitor communications are confined to what is entirely necessary and proportionate to protect our national security. Accountability is a key factor in this respect.

As you mention, the Science and Technology Committee has been conducting an inquiry into the technology aspects of the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill. It is clear that new tools are needed to fight terrorism and crime in the twenty-first century, but the potential impact that the draft Bill will have on our communication sector must be carefully scrutinised. Our inquiry, exploring the technological implications of the new powers proposed by the Home Secretary, and their consequences for privacy and data security, is vital to ensure we have robust mechanisms and safeguards in place. We will be publishing our report in the coming weeks.

More broadly, there have been three independent reviews of investigatory powers: by David Anderson, the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, and the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). All have agreed that agencies should have the power to acquire and use data in bulk. The Home Secretary has also emphasised that the Investigatory Powers Bill will not mean that security services have full access to look through an individual’s browsing content, but rather would be able to access the domains that have been visited i.e. but not the page itself. The broad range of evidence the Committee has received from differing areas of industry has highlighted the issues we face with this Bill, including definitions of ‘communications data’ (which you mention) and Internet Connection Records (ICRs), which could be seen to make it difficult to assess which data could fall into these categories. It is of course vital that we analyse this and assess whether access requirements and safeguards are appropriate.

I have received assurances from ministers that access to the data itself will be tightly controlled. The Home Secretary has announced that there will be a ‘double-lock’ authorisation process, meaning that warrants for the most intrusive powers available to the agencies (such as the interpretation of communications) will be subject to approval by a judge as well as by the Secretary of State. My Committee is due to publish our report shortly. You can see the evidence we have received to date, and the report will be published online, via our website.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me and I hope my response has been useful. I would encourage you to read our report when it is published, and I will also be following the Joint Committee’s progress very closely. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any further questions.

Kindest regards,

Nicola Blackwood MP
Member of Parliament for Oxford West and Abingdon"
The Science & Technology Committee has, in recent days, published its report, Investigatory Powers Bill: technology issues. The report raises concerns about broad and vague definitions in the Bill and the potential impact on industry. From the conclusions and recommendations -
"1.While we are encouraged to learn of the Government’s ongoing engagement with the internet industry, there seems still to be confusion about the extent to which ‘internet connection records’ will have to be collected. This in turn is causing concerns about what the new measures will mean for business plans, costs and competitiveness...
2.The Government, in seeking to future-proof the proposed legislation, has produced definitions of internet connection records and other terms which have led to significant confusion on the part of communications service providers and others. Terms such as “telecommunications service”, “relevant communications data”, “communications content”, “equipment interference”, “technical feasibility” and “reasonably practicable” need to be clarified as a matter of urgency. The Government should review the draft Bill to ensure that the obligations it is creating on industry are both clear and proportionate. Furthermore, the proposed draft Codes of Practice should include the helpful, detailed examples that the Home Office have provided to us. (Paragraph 31)...
6.As ever, the fight against serious crime should be appropriately balanced with the requirement to protect and promote the UK’scommercial competitiveness. We believe the industry case regarding public fear about ‘equipment interference’ is well founded. The Investigatory Powers Commissioner should carefully monitor public reaction to this power and the Government should stand ready to refine its approach to ‘equipment interference’ if these fears are realised. Taking into account security considerations, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner should report to the public on the extent to which such measures are used. (Paragraph 51) ...
7.Given the speed with which this legislation must be in force, the Government must work with industry to improve estimates of all of thecompliance costs associated with the measures in the draft Bill, for meeting ICR-related and other obligations, as a matter of urgency. Should the measures in the draft Bill come into force, it will be important for Parliament to have access to information on actual costs incurred in order to assess the proportionality and economic impact of the investigatory powers regime and its effectiveness. (Paragraph 65)
8.Larger CSPs may be able to take some assurance from the Government’s commitment to meet their “reasonable” costs and avoid putting any affected businesses “at commercial disadvantage”. However, smaller CSPs may not be certain that they will be served with a notice tocollect ICRs and, if they do have to, whether their costs will in fact meet the Government’s ‘reasonable costs’ criteria for reimbursement. The Government should reconsider its reluctance for including in the Bill an explicit commitment that Government will pay the full costs incurred by compliance. (Paragraph 66)"

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