Paul Oliver, Solicitor at Stokoe Partnership Solicitors, comments in Lawyer Monthly regarding the draft Investigatory Powers Bill and its potential impact on privacy.

“The UK government is soon to introduce the Investigatory Powers Bill with the intention of cracking down on legal transparency, but while the Human Rights Committee deems this a “significant step forward,” it states that there is a need for more safeguards.

UK MPs and their peers have stated that the collection of personal data on a large scale is not “inherently incompatible” with privacy laws. Civil liberties groups are concerned over privacy infringement surrounding the bill. The bill is in its last stages of approval after a thorough year of amendments due to the opposition of three parliamentary committees. Labour has recently backed the Tory government’s proposed law and the bill is now sat before the House of Lords…

This month Lawyer Monthly spoke to several sources in the legal, political and technology fields on the matter; here’s what they had to say…

Paul Oliver, Solicitor at Stokoe Partnership Solicitors, a criminal litigation practice that specialises in defending very serious crime:

“The IPB has rightly been heavily scrutinised, however, it is important to remember that individual freedom and liberty is a key aspect of liberal democracies, and the starting point should therefore be the principle of protection from intrusion by the state, with specific exceptions being made only where it can be justified.

It has been previously shown that warrants are a very important mechanism for this, requiring state agencies to obtain judicial authority for specific, and limited, powers of intrusion. The importance of this was noted by the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (PISC), which commented as follows: “privacy protections should form the backbone of the draft legislation, around which the exceptional powers are then built… privacy considerations must form an integral part of the legislation, not merely an add-on.”

It has been suggested that a ‘Class Warrant’ for Bulk Personal Data, rather than specifically targeted warrants, would make for a broad brush approach. In this case, particularly, this would have harmful effects, catching many more people in the net whose privacy will be invaded without just cause. Naturally – by making it more difficult to pin down and scrutinise the justifications for such wide ranging action – this increases fears surrounding the bill.

The PISC has stated that “class authorisations should be kept to an absolute minimum and subject to greater safeguards”, and have gone further, saying that Class Bulk Personal Dataset warrants should be removed entirely from the legislation. These would increase the safeguards for privacy in the bill, putting the onus on security services to ensure their case to place any targets under surveillance would only be approved after undergoing judicial scrutiny, rather than simply bundling through whole groups of people in Class Warrants…”

Read the full article on the Lawyer Monthly website here.