The UK House of Lords passed [materials] the Investigatory Powers Bill [text, PDF] on Tuesday, which places the bill in the final legislative stage, Royal Assent. The bill covers policies on acquiring communications data, equipment interference and warrants for accessing bulk information. In February the Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee released a report [JURIST report] outlining its concerns about the bill. In response, a section was added to the bill to include privacy protections. The bill makes it lawful [materials] for authorities to access communications data without judicial approval, except to uncover journalistic sources. The government defined communications data as “the context, but not the content of a communication.” It also allows for targeted equipment interference (EI), accessing specific devices such as mobile phones and computers, with the approvals of a law enforcement chief and judicial commissioner. Another section allows agencies to seek communications data or EI in bulk by applying for a warrant. In January tech companies submitted evidence [JURIST report] to Parliament of issues that may arise from the law, as they said it would require them to perform bulk data collections of all user activity within a 12-month period in order to help prevent terrorism, cyber bullying, and organized crime. Critics of the bill believe [Forbes report] that it increases the UK’s power of surveillance to an unprecedented level.
Data collection and government surveillance continues to be a contentious issue world wide. Earlier this month, a federal judge rejected [JURIST report] the New York Police Department’s proposed settlement of a lawsuit accusing the department of improperly surveying the Muslim community. In February the US Department of Justice filed a motion to compel [JURIST report] Apple to unlock the encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters. In January the Ontario Superior Court ruled [JURIST report] that police orders requiring telecommunications companies to hand over cellphone user data breached the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Last November the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an order allowing the NSA to continue compiling telephone records of a California-based law firm, just one week after a federal judge ruled [JURIST reports] against the part of the agency’s surveillance program involving the bulk collection of domestic phone records.