Independent reviewer recommends redraft of UK surveillance laws

Out-Law News | 16 Jun 2015 | 10:08 am | 1 min. read

Existing UK surveillance laws should be scrapped and replaced by a "comprehensive and comprehensible new law...drafted from scratch", the barrister appointed to review UK terrorism legislation has said.

David Anderson QC said the new law should provide for "clear limits and safeguards on any intrusive power that it may be necessary for public authorities to use".

Anderson was asked by UK prime minister David Cameron to conduct a review of UK terrorism legislation (379-page / 5.46MB PDF) under the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act, which came into force in the UK last year.

In his report Anderson said that the public needs to be able to have trust that surveillance powers are being used properly, but that the existing "confusing" legal regime makes it hard to verify if they are.

He said new legislation should make provision for "judicial, regulatory and parliamentary mechanisms for authorisation, audit and oversight" of public authorities' interference with the privacy of communications. It should be "written so far as possible in non-technical language" and "be structured and expressed so as to enable its essentials to be understood by intelligent readers across the world".

Included in his recommendations to improve oversight and review of the use of surveillance powers was a suggestion that a new Independent Surveillance and Intelligence Commission (ISIC) be set up. The ISIC should replace the Interception of Communications Commissioner’s Office (IOCCO), the Office of Surveillance Commissioners and the Intelligence Services Commissioner and "take over the judicial authorisation of all warrants and of certain categories of requests for communications data", Anderson said in his report.

Anderson said that expanding surveillance laws to require communication service providers to record "user interaction with the internet" might help law enforcement bodies associate communications with individual devices, see where criminals are communicating online and to gather intelligence or evidence on "web browsing activity". However, he said that "a detailed operational case needs to be made out, and a rigorous assessment conducted of the lawfulness, likely effectiveness, intrusiveness and cost of requiring such data to be retained" before those powers could be written into law.

In his report, Anderson also called for a new "bulk communications data warrant" to be created. This would allow law enforcement agencies to acquire communications data in vast quantities "in certain cases".