The draft Investigatory Powers Bill (Bill)was published by the Home Office on 4 November 2015.
The current legislation governing investigatory powers held by law enforcement and the intelligence agencies is the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). Over the past year, three comprehensive reviews of the legislation were carried out. These were completed by: David Anderson QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC) and a panel convened by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
Each made a number of recommendations. The Investigatory Powers Bill is the result of the various recommendations suggested by these reviews. The Bill is divided into nine parts:
- Part one of the Bill creates an offence of unlawful interception of both private and public telecommunication systems.
- Part two is broken down into three different chapters. Chapter one concerns the interception and examination of communications with a warrant. Chapter two concerns other forms of lawful interception. Chapter three provides the restrictions on the use of intercepted material.
- Part three concerns the power to grant authorisations.
- Part four concerns the retention of communications data.
- Part five concerns the rights of relevant authorities to interfere with equipment, or to "bug"/"hack" communications.
- Part six concerns the "bulk warrants", the ability of law enforcement and the intelligence services to obtain the communications data (usually social media accounts) of multiple persons in a single warrant.
- Part seven concerns bulk personal datasets.
- Part eight requires the Prime Minister to appoint an Investigatory Powers Commissioner and the Judicial Commissioners.
- Part nine provides a number of miscellaneous provisions.
The biggest changes between RIPA and the Investigatory Powers Bill is the ability of relevant agencies to obtain bulk data, rather than specific and targeted data. There is also a change in the level of authorisation needed to obtain electronic data, putting it on the same level as telephone data.
The whole issue of communications and state surveillance is highly charged for many reasons. However, it seems inevitable that the passage of this Bill will meet resistance, both in parliamentary scrutiny, media and public pressure. The eventual Investigatory Powers Act may be some time, and it likely to be significantly different from the draft Bill.