Monday, July 11, 2016

Response from Nicola Blackwood on Investigatory Powers Bill

I wrote to the chair of the Science and Technology Committee, Nicola Blackwood, at the beginning June 2016, expressing concerns about the Investigatory Powers Bill.
Dear Nicola Blackwood MP,
The Investigatory Powers Bill will be debated by the House of Commons on Monday and Tuesday next week. I am concerned about several aspects of the Bill. As my MP, I want you to attend the debate and support the following amendments:
#Notification for individuals
NC1 or NC16
These amendments ensure individuals subjected to intrusive investigatory powers will be notified after the fact where it would not jeopardise ongoing investigations and operations. This mechanism provides greater transparency and accountability for the use of these powers.
#Removal of bulk powers and Bulk Personal Datasets
390, 391, 392, 393, 394, 295, 396, 397, 398, 153, 154, 401, 402, 403, 404, 405, 406, 407, 408, 409, 410, 411, 412, 413, 414, 155, 156, 417, 418, 419, 420, 421, 422, 423, 424, 425, 426, 427, 428, 429, 430, 431, 433, 434, 157, 158, 437, 438, 439, 440, 441, 442, 443, 444, 445, 446, 447, 448, 449, 450, 451, 452, 453, 454, 455, 456, 159, 160, 459, 460, 461, 462, 463, 464
Bulk suspicionless surveillance is unlawful, unnecessary, and a disproportionate interference with everyone's right to live a private life. These amendments remove the bulk powers from the bill.
# Review of the operation of the act
The rushing through of the bill, and the ever-changing technology that the Bill relates to makes it essential that this Bill is reviewed every two years to ensure the balance of providing security and privacy is met.
Yours sincerely,
Ray Corrigan
I just received the following response:

"Dear Mr Corrigan,

Thank you for contacting me about the Investigatory Powers Bill. Please accept my apologies for the delay in getting back to you.

I certainly appreciate the strength of feeling on a Bill as important as this, and it is undoubtedly crucial that it receives all proper scrutiny.

Indeed, I am confident that this is the case. The Bill passed its Second Reading in the House of Lords on 27th June, and further detailed examination will now take place in the House of Lords, via Committee, on the 11th, 13th, 18th and 20th of July. This highlights how seriously Parliament is taking this Bill, and the extent to which it is deemed vital to ensure that the final legislation is robust but balanced.

More broadly, I have consistently said that it is 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.

You may be interested to know that the Science and Technology Committee, of which I am Chair, conducted an inquiry into the technological aspects of the Draft Bill earlier this year. 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 ensuring we have robust mechanisms and safeguards in place. Our report, Investigatory Powers Bill: technology issues, was published on 19 January 2016. I hope you find this reassuring.

Furthermore, 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 received from differing areas of industry highlighted the issues we face with this Bill, including definitions of ‘communications data’ 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.

However, and perhaps most importantly, there will now be an independent review of the operational case for bulk powers, led by David Anderson QC. The team, hand-picked by Mr Anderson, will consist of a security cleared barrister who has significant experience working as a special advocate acting against the Government in terrorism cases; a technical expert who supported Mr Anderson on his investigatory powers review; and a former senior law enforcement officer with significant operational experience and knowledge of the use of a wide range of investigatory techniques. Groups such as Liberty and the Don’t Spy On Us Coalition have also been consulted on design ideas for the process itself.

This review will be assessing the specific question of whether bulk capabilities, as provided for in the Bill, are necessary. The review team will critically appraise the need for bulk capabilities, which will include an assessment of whether the same result could be achieved through alternative, and ultimately less intrusive methods.

I have also 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.

I would add that in response to concerns expressed during the Commons Committee Stage, the Government tabled an amendment which made clear that when carrying out their review of the decision to issue any warrant, the Judicial Commissioner must do so with a sufficient degree of care, so as to ensure that the Commissioner complies with their duties under clause five (general duties in relation to privacy). I was pleased to see that there was strong support from across the House for this amendment.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me and I hope you are reassured by my response. I would encourage you to read our report, and I will also be monitoring the progress of this Bill very closely to ensure that all appropriate safeguards are in place. You can track the progress of the Bill here.

And of course, please don’t hesitate to contact me again if you have any further questions.

Kind regards,

Nicola Blackwood MP
Member of Parliament for Oxford West and Abingdon"