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February 11, 2016updated 04 Sep 2016 10:20pm

Snooper’s Charter under attack again, Joint Committee calls for encryption & surveillance clarity

News: Committee is latest group of Parliamentarians to blast surveillance laws

By Charlotte Henry

The backlash against the government’s proposed Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Bill), dubbed the snoopers’ charter by critics, has continued.

A joint Committee of Parliament, which includes both lords and MPs, has called for significant changes to the legislation in a new report, even though it accepts that the Government was right to bring it forward.

The committee said that there needs to be greater clarity over the creation of ‘backdoors’ within the legislation, after the Home Secretary Theresa May stated that the legislation did not require their creation.

There are fears that ‘backdoors’ would totally undermine encryption, and put users at greater risk from hackers.

The Parliamentarians want greater justification for new bulk powers to be published alongside the Bill, and recommend a joint Committee be set up to review the powers five years after they are passed.

Committee chair Lord Murphy said: "There is much to be commended in the draft Bill, but the Home Office has a significant amount of further work to do before Parliament can be confident that the provisions have been fully thought through."

He said that "in some important cases, such as the proposal for communications service providers to create and store users’ internet connection records, the Committee saw the potential value of the proposal but also that the cost and other practical implications are still being worked out. In a number of areas the definitions used in the Bill will be important, and we have asked the Home Office to do more to address these."

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The bill also received criticism from techUK, the trade body representing 850 organisations.

Its deputy CEO Antony Walker said: "We’ve now had three Parliamentary reports raising serious concerns with this draft Bill. On vital issues like encryption, internet connection records, bulk equipment interference powers and extraterritorial reach all three reports have said that there are still too many aspects that are unclear, poorly defined or just wrong. The Home Office must recognise this and address the fundamental concerns raised by expert witnesses, MPs and Lords.

Walker said that his organisation "fully support the objective to create a clear legal framework for investigatory powers that is worthy of emulation around the world."

However, he said that "this is achievable only if the government takes on board some of the key recommendations that have been set out by these three Parliamentary reports, however, with an additional recess now expected for an EU referendum there is a real concern about the time left to get this right and ensure the proper parliamentary scrutiny."

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