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Internet 'snooping' plans: what we know about the Investigatory Powers Bill

10th November 2015

Internet snooping plans

Earlier this month the government published proposals for the Investigatory Powers Bill, which is being labelled by many as internet ‘snooping’ plans.

Initial plans were abandoned by Home Secretary Theresa May as several proposals within the bill were deemed too contentious, such as the police and security services gaining full access to everyone’s internet browsing history.

These revised spying laws were finally revealed in a statement to members of parliament in the House of Commons last week. The new laws mean that those in solicitor jobs and other legal workers need to be aware of the changes, and here we summarise the new changes.

Overview of the bill

The Investigatory Powers Bill is the biggest overhaul of surveillance power laws for over a decade and will be put in place to govern how the police, spy agencies and other authorities can monitor potential suspects.

Internet data being recorded

The new legislation contains a requirement for internet firms to hold internet connection records for a maximum of one year.

An article on the Telegraph website says that people’s internet data being recorded will be similar to a phone bill, although the government are saying that authorities will not be allowed access to people’s full browsing histories.

The news that internet data will now be recorded for a maximum of a year has been put in place as communication shifts from traditional methods to online and apps.

Internet history

Judges will have unprecedented power

When police and security services apply to intercept a suspect’s communications, the Home Secretary will still sign off warrants.

The new laws, however, now state that judges will have unprecedented power. Unless the judge gives the go-ahead to the application, it will be blocked.

If it is an urgent request, then a secretary of state can issue a warrant without judicial authority, but the judge can later rule against the operation to stop it.

In a statement to Parliament, Theresa May said, “This will place a double lock on the authorisation of our most intrusive investigatory powers.”

Local councils banned from accessing internet connection records

The new bill also states that councils will be banned from gaining access to internet connection records and that “recklessly obtaining communications data" could see those convicted face a two-year jail sentence.

The new bill also protects the communications of people who work in sensitive professions, such as lawyers, journalists and doctors.

Concerns about the bill

Many civil liberty groups and lawyers have concerns about the new laws, with some believing that the changes will take the UK a step closer to a surveillance state and that the changes still do not put all the power in the hands of a judge.

Ben Emmerson, a British lawyer and UN Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism and Human Rights, said in an official statement, “Judicial review after the event is better than no judicial review at all, but it falls short of the requirement to place the power to issue a warrant into the hands of an independent judge, which is where it belongs.”

Following the announcement of the potential law changes, the proposals will be discussed by a committee of lawmakers. This could see further changes to the bill being made, before it is debated by parliament at a later date.

Watch Theresa May’s announcement in parliament in the below video.

Image Credit: Ministerio TIC Colombia, Dennis Skley (