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March 1, 2016updated 05 Sep 2016 8:07am

Police hacking powers extended as Theresa May presents revised Snoopers’ Charter

News: UK Government tries to boost ‘clarity’ while expanding surveillance with Snoopers’ Charter.

By Alexander Sword

The Government has published an updated version of the Investigatory Powers Bill that aims to address concerns but also expands the scope of some of the proposed powers.

The revisions to the bill, disparagingly referred to as the Snoopers’ Charter, include allowing access to all web browsing records in specific criminal investigations, while the original draft had only specified that this applied to illegal websites and communications services.

In addition, it will now extend the use of state remote computer hacking to the police and National Crime Agency from just the security services.

There has been no climb down by the Government on some of the most controversial measures in the bill, including the requirement for internet service providers to store customer data for 12 months.

First published in November, the bill was criticised for lacking transparency and not doing enough to protect privacy.

In order to address these concerns, the Home Office has said that it has provided much greater clarity by refining technical definitions. It also plans to publish additional material to explain how the powers will be used.

In addition, it claims to made privacy safeguards "clearer and stronger", with journalists and lawyers receiving special protections under the law.

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Specifically, an exemption for the security and intelligence agencies when seeking to identify the sources of journalists was removed.

There is also new clarity around the double-lock for interception, with the new Bill specifying that the decision to issue urgent warrants must be reviewed by a judicial commissioner within three days.

"The Bill ensures that the security and intelligence agencies and law enforcement continue to have the powers they need to keep us safe – and no more," Home Secretary Theresa May said in the pre-amble to the bill.

"The Bill also provides the public and Parliament with greater confidence that there are robust measures in place to ensure that the powers are subject to appropriate safeguards."

Corporate watchdog SumOfUs derided the bill as a "cynical power-grab".

"Not only would the proposed Snoopers’ Charter open up our private data for government review," said Hanna Thomas, Campaign Manager, "this dramatic increase in the State’s surveillance powers could shatter standard encryption protections that keep our data safe and make private communications more vulnerable to hacks and leaks."

Ms. May intends to get the act into law by the end of 2016, in order to replace existing laws before they expire. This will be the first comprehensive legal framework for state surveillance in the world.

UK tech body TechUK’s Antony Walker emphasised the importance of MPs having the "time necessary to subject it to the "maximum parliamentary scrutiny" the Home Office has promised."

 

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