The controversial Investigatory Powers Bill, dubbed the Snoopers’ Charter, has passed its second reading in parliament despite the signing of an open letter heavily criticising the proposed legislation by over 200 of the country’s top lawyers.
The letter claimed that the draft law “fails to meet international standards for surveillance powers” and now requires significant revisions.
It argued that the “bulk interception warrants” and “bulk equipment interference warrants” it enshrines in law compromise the fundamental right to privacy and could be illegal.
The Snoopers’ Charter also fails to meet international standards by allowing targeted interception warrants to be applied to groups, the lawyers claimed.
The letter added the following:
“Third, those who authorise interceptions should be able to verify a ‘reasonable suspicion’ on the basis of a factual case. The investigatory powers bill does not mention ‘reasonable suspicion’ – or even suspects – and there is no need to demonstrate criminal involvement or a threat to national security…
If the law is not fit for purpose, unnecessary and expensive litigation will follow, and further reform will be required.”
Despite the last minute lobbying from some of the UK’s top legal minds, the bill passed at its second reading by a whopping 281:15 votes. This is because despite strong criticism from the Labour and the SNP parties, who abstained.
Mike Weston, CEO of data science consultancy Profusion, argued that the government is trying to rush through the bill before the public realize its implications.
“This is a bad bill and it’ll make a terrible law. The IP Bill represents an unprecedented attack on online privacy,” he added.
“The attack on encryption doesn’t mean much to the man or woman on the street, but if they realized that it could ultimately allow the government to snoop on the messages they send to their friends and family via WhatsApp, it would result in more opposition.”