Parliamentary committee criticises surveillance bill over privacy concerns

Home Secretary Theresa May speaks on the third day of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester northern Britain, October 6 , 2015.  REUTERS/Phil Noble

A planned British law to give spies and the police wide-ranging new surveillance powers is rushed, does not do enough to protect people’s privacy and requires major change, a powerful committee of lawmakers said on Tuesday.

The bill was unveiled in November after police and intelligence agencies warned they had fallen behind those they were trying to track, as advances in technology and the growth of services like Skype and Facebook increasingly put criminals beyond their reach.

Critics say the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill would be the West’s furthest-reaching surveillance law, while tech companies have warned it would damage their own security systems.

It would force communications firms to collect and store vast reams of data about almost every click of British online activity. The bill would also oblige service providers to help intercept data and hack suspects’ devices.

“Overall, the privacy protections are inconsistent and in our view need strengthening,” parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) said in a report.

“The draft bill appears to have suffered from a lack of sufficient time and preparation,” it added, saying the bill adopted a “rather piecemeal approach” to privacy protection which it said should have formed the backbone to the measure.