Written as editor of the New Statesman’s NS Tech and first published here.
The controversial Investigatory Powers Bill has been passed by parliament, with 444 MPs voting in favour, including many from the Labour Party, versus just 69 against.
While many in the tech industry have raised concerns about the cost implications and technical challenges of the new powers, this was not enough to persuade lawmakers.
Concessions made in the bill mean that technology companies will not have to build de facto backdoors into encryption software, but judges can demand that firms write software to help them access communications.
Public and private databases will be open to access by the security services, and provisions have been made for the hacking of devices of people who are not direct suspects of a crime.
Internet Service Providers will have to keep databases of things like people’s web and app browsing history, but the government says it will reimburse them for the cost of complying.
Bowing to pressure from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, a review of the bulk collection and retention of data has been ordered and will be conducted by David Anderson QC, an independent reviewer of terrorism laws.
He has already raised concerns about whether the legislation breaches human rights laws.
Jim Killock, executive director of internet rights organisation Open Rights Group, said: “The IP Bill’s powers are too broad and permit the surveillance of citizens whether or not they are suspected of wrongdoing. Surveillance should be targeted at those who are suspected of a crime.”
An internal government report leaked to The Intercept by Ed Snowden this week acknowledges that mass surveillance can even cost lives.
The draft bill now heads to be considered and voted on in the House of Lords, which has recently been unconvinced by a number of government proposals.