The Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Bill) is all but certain to become law after the House of Lords waved the controversial legislation through after dropping amendments they had hoped to include.
The Bill will therefore become law within weeks, legalising a number of secret service activities that were ruled unlawful only in October, and adding new powers, such as storing the browsing activity of everyone for a year.
The Bill has generated much criticism, from companies including Apple, Microsoft and Google, to privacy organisations and even government departments such as the Information Commissioner's Office.
However, this all proved in vain as the government can now push the Bill through to Royal Assent and have it turned into law.
Jenny Jones, Green Party member of the House of Lords, claimed that Parliament had "given our security services unprecedented powers to spy on us".
That's it, the #IPBill has gone thru and will soon be an Act. We've given our security services unprecedented powers to spy on us.— Jenny Jones (@GreenJennyJones) November 16, 2016
Julian Huppert, the former Liberal Democrat MP who lost his Cambridge seat in the General Election last year, criticised the Conservative and Labour parties for uniting to push it through.
The #ipbill has passed both Houses of Parliament. Soon, a record will be kept of every website you ever go to. That should worry you.— Julian Huppert (@julianhuppert) November 16, 2016
The law will require internet and phone companies to store comprehensive records of websites visited and phone numbers called for 12 months, and to enable police, security services and multiple other public sector bodies to access those records on demand.
It will also provide the security services with the legal power to bulk collect personal communications data, and give police and security services the explicit power to hack into, and bug, computers and smartphones. These powers will largely require only the approval of the home secretary.
#IPBill all but law. Time to consign 60% of Covert Policing Law & Practice to legal history and start writing again— Simon McKay (@simonmckay) November 16, 2016
Privacy International explained why the powers for government agencies to collect internet connection records are so far reaching.
"At the very least, they comprise a 12-month log of websites visited, communications software used, system updates downloaded, desktop widgets used, every mobile app used and logs of any other device connecting to the internet, such as games consoles, baby monitors, digital cameras and e-book readers," it warned.
"Any flaws, known or unknown, could then be exploited to break into any individual's computer or smartphone, revealing a much wider range of information about people than they might otherwise realise.
"They are comparable to a compilation of call records, postal records, library records, study and research records, social and leisure activity records and location records, and will additionally capture concerns about health, sexual and family issues.
"The agencies would be able to acquire this intrusive, population-level data in bulk under bulk acquisition powers."
The Investigatory Powers Act will replace section 94 of the Telecommunications Act 1984, which in the past has been used as an Enabling Act allowing a wide range of electronic surveillance by various arms of the state.
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