Home Secretary Theresa May is continuing her push for further web surveillance powers to counter terrorism, but the independent watchdog has raised some serious questions about her plans in a new report.
David Anderson QC, the author of the government-commissioned but independent report , says:
There should be no question of progressing proposals for the compulsory retention of third party data before a compelling operational case for it has been made out (as it has not been to date) and the legal and technical issues have been fully bottomed out
Anderson thinks plans to allow security services to access many of the messaging services that we all use every day, such as WhatsApp and Snapchat. should not progress until a stronger case has been made. May wanted new kinds of surveillance powers to happen in the last parliament, but she was prevented from getting legislation through parliament by the Lib Dems.
Anderson's report acknowledges the changing debate around internet privacy, triggered by the revelations by Edward Snowden: "The Snowden Documents have transformed the position in a number of ways."
May told the House of Commons this morning that the a surveillance law, or so-called Snooper's Charter, would be brought in front of a committee made up of both MPs and Lords by the Autumn.
Many civil liberties groups are very worried about the proposed powers and outspoken critics of the proposed laws include the inventor of the web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
Commenting on the report Renate Samson, chief executive of Big Brother Watch commented said:
David Anderson has produced a well researched and balanced report. He has provided the country with a clear analysis of the delicate balance between surveillance and privacy in the UK today.He has listened at length to all the key players in this debate and we welcome his acknowledgment of the many areas we have repeatedly noted as being of concern. Whilst the report features a number of excellent recommendations, notably the introduction of judicial authorisation of warrants; including those currently signed off by a secretary of state, the creation of a new commissioner system, a complete rewrite of RIPA, and that a compelling case for the intrusive powers called for in the “Snoopers Charter” has failed to be made.On the issue of bulk data collection, further discussion about safeguards based on necessity and proportionality is critical. Bulk data collection whilst useful, has the power, as Mr Anderson noted, to be “revealing of personal habits and characteristics”. Further discussion and debate is therefore essential.We hope today’s report will be the start of a long overdue and much needed parliamentary and public debate. The creation of a joint committee to begin analysis on existing legislation and Anderson’s report should now be convened.
Theresa May is definitely going to face a political battle to get her tech plans through Parliament, and Anderson's report has not made her task any easier.