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UK Government Agrees to Snoopers’ Charter Review

Theresa May is set to establish an independent review into the proposed powers of bulk collection of data set out in the forthcoming Investigatory Powers Bill.

The home secretary offered to do so in a letter to her shadow opposite number Andy Burnham in a bid to get the Labour Party votes or abstentions the government needs to pass the bill, according to the BBC.

David Anderson, the independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation who originally led the Investigatory Powers Review, has been chosen to assess the powers which will allow the authorities to collect large amounts of email and communications data from the populace.

Three separate parliamentary committees picked fault with the original drafting of the bill, but the Conservative government has so far shown little desire to listen to their recommendations for a major redrafting of the legislation.

These included a Joint Committee on the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill which itself called for the government to publish a “fuller justification” for bulk interception of data; bulk acquisition of data; and bulk interference with equipment.

Burnham is set to tell the Commons that he set out seven areas where his party wants to see “significant movement.”

"Yesterday the home secretary wrote to me on two of these issues and I have to say I found her letter extremely encouraging,” he said.

"Her commitment to an independent review of the case for bulk powers is a major concession but the right thing to do and something which will build trust in this process."

Bulk collection of data has long been criticized by intelligence experts and rights groups, who argue that it is the wrong way to approach surveillance work as it produces simply too much data to search through effectively.

Former NSA technical director, William Binney, told the Joint Committee at the beginning of the year that bulk collection is “99% useless” and “has cost lives in Britain because it inundates analysts with too much data.”

He favors a different approach which maps social networks using metadata and other rules to zero in on known and potential targets without the need to scoop up huge quantities of private data on citizens.

Jacob Ginsberg, senior director at encryption firm Echoworx, argued that there will be “very real costs” if the bill is not implemented correctly from the start.

“A review will do little to reassure the public that their government is looking out for their best interests, especially when the government’s exercise of these powers will not be subject to a meaningful judicial authorisation process,” he added.

“If this bill passes, we’re going to see a tidal wave of other European countries look to impose similar legislation as well. Aside from the short term economic costs, it would be very hard to over-estimate the damage that a bill like this could do to our society.”

The review is set to report by summer.

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