MPs and peers are to challenge the home secretary, Theresa May, on the privacy implications and detailed operation of her snooper’s charter legislation when she appears before the bill’s parliamentary scrutiny committee.
May’s appearance on Wednesday follows a strong warning from major US internet companies including Facebook, Google and Twitter, that unilateral British demands to access their customer’s confidential data and weaken their encryption could undermine trust in their services.
It also follows the rejection of a Freedom of Information Act request to see the date, time and recipient of every email the home secretary sent, every Skype call she made and every website she visited during October and November last year on the grounds that it was “vexatious”.
The Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, said the rejection showed that the while the government wanted to push through powers in the bill to give the police and security services’ access to everyone’s weblogs, they were not prepared to release the home secretary’s records.
“Theresa May wants access to our entire web browsing histories, what she calls ‘internet connection records’, but when the public asks to see hers the Home Office decides that the request is vexatious. I would argue that her policy is not only vexatious but Orwellian,” said Farron.
The peers and MPs on the draft investigatory powers bill committee say they will press the home secretary over whether she is confident that the current definition of an “internet connection record” is sufficiently clear for the internet and phone companies which will be required to retain them for 12 months.
The committee members say they will question May on all aspects of the bill including:
- Whether the value of the communications data to be stored for 12 months and accessed by the police and security services outweighs the privacy risks involved
- Why the bill’s current definition of telecommunications providers potentially includes coffee shop and hotel WiFi providers
- How she justifies bulk data collection as legal given recent judgments in the EU court of justice and the European court of human rights
- Why the draft bill specifies a “judicial review” test should be used, if the judicial commissioners operating the “double lock” authorisation process will be applying the same tests as the home secretary
- Why the draft bill weakens the protection given to journalistic sources under existing and crime and terrorism legislation.
The bill provides provides a new legal framework for the use of investigatory powers, including access to communications data and internet connection records, and the use of computer hacking by law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies.
This article was written by Alan Travis Home affairs editor, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 13th January 2016 07.00 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010