Investigatory Powers Bill amended to recognise privacy as 'a fundamental priority'

Out-Law News | 13 Oct 2016 | 3:08 pm | 1 min. read

UK peers have agreed to amend the Investigatory Powers Bill to give specific recognition to privacy as "a fundamental priority".

According to the agreed amendment, the proposed new legislation will be framed as setting out "the extent to which certain investigatory powers may be used to interfere with privacy".

The amendment was proposed by Lord Janvrin, who is a member of the UK parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC). It was approved by members of the House of Lords during a report stage for the Bill on Tuesday.

Lord Janvrin said: "When the ISC reported on the draft Bill, we recommended that privacy protection should form the backbone of the legislation, around which the exceptional, intrusive powers would then be built. This recommendation was to underline at the very outset of the Bill that a delicate balance must be struck between an individual’s right to privacy and the exceptional powers needed by the intelligence agencies to ensure our safety and security."

Lord Janvrin praised the "significant improvements in the protection afforded to privacy" that have been made to the Bill in parliament since it was first introduced by the UK government.

"Very important in this process was the introduction by the government at the overview of the Bill of the clause on general duties in relation to privacy," he said. "This amendment seeks simply to reinforce the government’s approach. The Intelligence and Security Committee still feels that there is merit in placing a simple statement right at the forefront of the legislation to provide additional clarity that there should be no doubt that privacy protection remains a fundamental priority."

The Investigatory Powers Bill would give UK law enforcement and intelligence agencies the power to require telecommunication service providers to retain and hand over so-called communications data, including for the first time 'internet connection records', to help combat terrorism, serious crime or protect the UK's economic interests, among other limited purposes provided for in the legislation.

The Bill also sets out new rules to govern the interception of communications and use of equipment interference powers. It also outlines UK intelligence agencies' qualified right to obtain personal datasets in bulk for national security reasons under warrants that would be issued by UK ministers.