LibLink: Julian Huppert “The UK’s Investigatory Powers Bill is about to become law – here’s why that should terrify us”

Julian Huppert MPJulian Huppert has written a powerful piece on Open Democracy.  He writes:

The Investigatory Powers Bill is sneaking up on the final steps before it becomes law – something that should terrify all of us.

Some of the powers in the Bill are deeply intrusive, and with very little possible justification. All of us want to be safe, and protected from terrorists and the like – but the evidence that these powers are all needed is thin indeed. However, the cost to all of our privacy is huge.

For example, a power the state never had before is to require a log to be kept for a year of every website we ever go to. Just think of that – your browsing history stored, just in case it’s ever useful. If you ever choose to visit a depression support website, would you want that to now be logged, potentially revealing your mental health state? What about an abortion advice site? Marriage guidance? Why does the state need to know this about every one of us?

All very depressing reading.  He tells us a bit about the history of the Bill. I too thought the Lib Dems had blocked the earlier Bill and that we were safe, at least for the time being. But no, this nasty piece of legislation has been reseeded and is germinating in the dark.

The previous version of this legislation, the Communications Data Bill, was killed off in 2013. I was delighted to play a key role in that, and hoped it would be dead and buried. However, since the end of the Coalition, it has returned from the underworld.

This version of the legislation was first produced as a draft at the end of last year, and was promptly slated by every committee that studied it. The government then made a tiny handful of cosmetic changes to it – most infamously, inserting the word “privacy” into the title of one section, rather than actually doing something to support privacy – and then pushed it through the House of Commons.

Julian tells us that 25th October is the key date when it will get its third reading. The irony is that Labour appears to be ignoring the problem – what must Shami Chakrabarti be thinking?

You can read the full article here.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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10 Comments

  • David Evershed 15th Oct '16 - 12:25pm

    It is good to see a liberal viewpoint on Lib Dem Voice and an argument against more Government intervention and interference in people’s lives.

    So many arguments on here seem to be anti-liberal and in favour of more and more Government intervention in our lives.

  • “Just think of that – your browsing history stored, just in case it’s ever useful… Why does the state need to know this about every one of us?”

    I thought the state would only get access to internet connection records (not a “browsing history” as most would understand it) in certain circumstances e.g. if there was good suspicion someone had committed a crime. Julian Huppert is suggesting here that the government will get their hands on this information for every one of us. Worrying if it’s true – but is it?

  • Tony Greaves 15th Oct '16 - 3:23pm

    It is not government intervention that is the problem. It is the kind of intervention, the areas it is intervening in, and the safeguards that are or are not provided.

    Tony

  • And this will not allow terrorists or serious criminals to be tracked. Simply use a VPN or Tor and your ISP will have absolutely no record of the web sites you visit.

    The requirement for ISPs to log web site visits will collect huge amounts of data on ordinary people, and won’t make an ounce of difference to the fight against terrorism or serious organised crime.

  • The SNP, as the real opposition at Westminster, voted against this bill in the commons and are continuing the fight for civil liberty across the UK. Labour abdicated their responsibility as an opposition, as usual, and voted for the Investigatory powers bill. Given that Labour will not oppose it in the unelected chamber and will at best Labstain, there is little chance of successfully stopping it becoming an Act.

    The SNP tried to amend the bill to protect civil liberty, to improve oversight from courts and to better protect people who communicate with journalists, lawyers or parliamentarians. They also tried to ensure that any surveillance would be targeted, with warrants from courts that ensure it is focused, specific and based on reasonable suspicion. They sought to ensure that oversight and safeguards were also strong and independent of government. These amendments and many others they tabled were voted down or rejected at Westminster. The powers the bill gives the state are so draconian, the Chinese government points to it as justification for their state’s surveillance of its citizens. If that does not frighten you, it should.

  • Sadly Labour won’t oppose it because many of them aren’t against it. The left has always had an authoritarian streak. The likes of Dianne Abbot and Tom Watson used to be staunch opponents of this type of thing, and Shami Chakrabarti in her previous job of course. Yet they have gone MIA at a time when it really matters.

  • @Nick Baird
    Labour “won’t oppose it” because Labour are satisfied with the government’s response to the several demands for change they made back in March. Isn’t this how constructive opposition is supposed to work? In fact it’s very similar to the way the Lib Dems responded to RIPA back in 2000.

    People are talking here as if the new act has just appeared from nowhere and Labour has not put forward any opposition to it – which is not the case.

    As for these kinds of powers not making “an ounce of difference” in the fight against serious crime, if that’s the case then how come we keep reading about internet evidence being crucial in various convictions?

    I’d be genuinely interested to know what the Lib Dem policy actually is here. I don’t think there’s any disputing the fact that some kinds of serious crime are facilitated by on-line activity, therefore surveillance of some kind is certainly of potential use. So what do the Lib Dems think we should do? Leave things as they are? Remove what surveillance powers currently exist? Modify them in some way? I have no idea what the Lib Dems stand for here, other than that they usually object to anything the Tories or Labour propose.

  • Jayne Mansfield 16th Oct '16 - 12:06pm

    I think that it is indisputable that the way in which people communicate with each other has changed.

    I was under the impression that Kier Starmer, a former Human Rights Lawyer before becoming DPP had done sterling work as far as forcing amendments to the bill.

  • @Stuart – per Julian’s excellent article, Labour won a concession with regard to trade union activities which was enough to see them support it. With regard to Lib Dem policy, we have proposed amendments at every stage of this bill and continue to do so in the Lords. The subject was debated at the Autumn Conference resulting in the following being passed:

    http://www.libdems.org.uk/conference-autumn-16-f8-safe-and-free

    In other words our policy is to neither leave things as they are or remove all current surveillance powers, but modify them to improve oversight and better balance security with liberty.

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