Tag Archive | "the Snoopers charter"

Queen’s speech

The Queen has spoken. The government’s annual legislative programme includes 20 bills, on topics ranging from streamlining housebuilding to tackling extremism. There are also three bills carried over from the previous session, including the investigatory powers bill, which will make it easier for public bodies to monitor communications.

This is a light programme, undoubtedly leaving plenty of room for the overriding European referendum. But many of the proposed bills have a direct influence on crime and justice.

The Prison and Courts Reform Bill relates only to England and Wales. It promises new “reform” prisons, with emphasis on training, rehabilitation and education. The Governors of the new prisons will have freedom to agree service contracts and establish their own boards. There will be more statistics on post-release offending and employment rates will be published, and Courts and tribunals will be modernised, with greater use of technology to reduce delays. This is the centrepiece of David Cameron’s agenda for social reform. It could draw criticism that it takes a step towards privatisation of prisons by the back door.

Also relating to England and Scotland is the Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill. A new civil order regime will be introduced to restrict extremist activity. Ofcom will have power to regulate internet-streamed material from outside EU. The government will be able to step in where councils fail to tackle extremism, subject to consultation, and there will be new powers of intervention to tackle radicalisation of children in unregulated education settings. The measures to crack down on extremism are quite vaguely worded.

The Digital Economy Bill provides for improved broadband and promises protection for consumers from spam email and nuisance calls by ensuring consent is obtained for direct marketing. It also provides for the protection of children from online pornography by requiring age verification on the internet for adult material.

The Criminal Finances Bill will create a new criminal offence making companies liable for stopping their staff facilitating tax evasion. The Suspicious Activity Reports regime will be refocused, with emphasis on tackling systemic money laundering, and there will be changes to laws on the proceeds of crime making it easier for the police and courts to recover criminal assets.

The Investigatory Powers Bill, carried over from the last session of Parliament, overhauls laws governing how the state gathers and retains private communications or other forms of data to combat crime. Broadband and mobile phone providers will be compelled to hold a year’s worth of communications data, and there will be an Investigatory Powers Commissioner. Known by critics as the snoopers’ charter, there is still concern about the number of agencies that will get access to the communications data and other privacy issues.

Also carried over from last session of Parliament, the Policing and Crime Bill provides for closer collaboration between the emergency rescue services, the overhaul of the police complaints and disciplinary systems and a ban on under-18s being held in police cells as a “place of safety.”

The Bill of Rights is to replace the Human Rights Act. It will be published in “due course” and subject to consultation, provide for a new framework of human rights, based on those set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. The final proposals are only likely to become clear after the EU referendum.

Posted in Case Law, Criminal JusticeComments (0)

Investigatory Powers Bill

The snoopers charter, known as the Investigatory Powers Bill , is with us again. While tightening up privacy safeguards in proposed new spying laws, the government is seeking to give the police more power to see internet browsing records.

Published on Tuesday, the Bill will force service providers to store browsing records for 12 months. It will also give legal backing to bulk collection of internet traffic. It expands the purposes for which police can obtain internet connection records. It says they can be acquired for a “specific investigation” provided it is “necessary and proportionate.” Ministers say the new powers are needed to fight terrorism, but internet firms have questioned their practicality, and civil liberties campaigners say it clears the way for mass surveillance,

In her written statement to Parliament, Theresa May said that the government is not seeking sweeping new powers and had taken on board the criticisms of three parliamentary committees. She said: “The privacy safeguards are stronger and clearer. The Bill incorporates additional protections for journalists, removing a key exemption for the security and intelligence agencies when seeking to identify journalists’ sources. And it incorporates statutory protections for lawyers.”

May said the latest version reflected the majority of the 122 recommendations made by MPs and peers, including strengthening safeguards, enhancing privacy protections and bolstering oversight arrangements.

She also said that the revised measure would strengthen the office and powers of the investigatory powers commissioner, giving the lord chief justice a role in his or her appointment. “This is vital legislation and we are determined to get it right…Terrorists and criminals are operating online and we need to ensure the police and security services can keep pace with the modern world and continue to protect the British public from the many serious threats we face.”

May said the Bill is not asking companies to weaken their security by undermining encryption. New safeguards for interception and equipment interference warrants are introduced, reducing the period of time within which urgent warrants must be reviewed by a Judicial Commissioner from five to three days.

She said: “The Bill as amended strengthens the office and powers of the new Investigatory Powers Commissioner, giving the Lord Chief Justice a role in his or her appointment and allowing for the Commissioner to inform people who have suffered as a result of the inappropriate use of powers.

“The ‘double-lock’ authorisation model endorsed by the Joint Committee – involving judges in the approval of warrants for the most intrusive powers – remains on the face of the Bill and has been strengthened further in respect of urgent warrants.”

Ministers want the new bill to become law by the end of the year, citing the urgent demands of national security and crime prevention.

The ‘Guardian’ reports that Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: “Less than three weeks ago MPs advised 123 changes to the majorly flawed draft bill. The powers were too broad, safeguards too few and crucial investigatory powers entirely missing. Government must return to the drawing board and give this vital, complex task appropriate time.” Lord Strasburger, a Liberal Democrat member of the scrutiny committee on the draft bill, said nothing had changed. “The Home Office just doesn’t do privacy. It does security and ever more intrusive powers they claim will make us safer, but not privacy.”

The ‘Guardian’ editorial says the bill “is, in its way, a triumph for [Edward] Snowden: it involves the British security state coming clean about the extraordinary existing facility to snoop that he exposed, spelling the powers out in statute for the first time… It will become possible to build up exhaustive logbooks on the lives of others. Bluntly described powers to switch on cameras and microphones on people’s own phones starkly reveal how the tide of technology is washing away all need for the old art of installing bugs…”

Posted in Civil LibertiesComments (0)

Regulating cybersecurity

Recently the FBI called Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California. The agency wanted Apple to help them hack an iPhone. Apple refused.

The request stepped up a level when a federal magistrate ordered Apple to help the FBI unlock a single iPhone. The phone belonged to Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the killers in the December mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. Investigators have maintained that terrorists are hiding behind the safety of encryption to plan attacks, putting lives at risk.

Apple again refused. Read the full story

Posted in Case Law, Civil LibertiesComments (0)

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