House of Lords hits out at Snooper's Charter

Privacy and practicality worries could give the IP Bill a rough ride through the upper house

Houses of Parliament

Members of the House of Lords have raised concerns about the content of the Investigatory powers Bill, known also as the Snooper's Charter, which started being debated in the House yesterday.

Particular concerns have been raised around the protections for journalists and their sources, as well as the privacy of the general public.

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Press Gazette reports that Lords Rosser and Strasburger spoke out against the bill's current wording.

Lord Rosser said: "We have already secured amendments to the bill providing that judicial commissioners, when considering a warrant, must give weight to the overriding public interest in a warrant being granted for the use of investigatory powers against journalist ... however, there are still matters outstanding on this point, including the extent to which the bill does or does not provide for the same level of protection for journalists as is currently the case under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act."

"There is also the question of the definition of who is and who is not a journalist now that we are in the digital world," he added. "This is not about preserving the special status of individuals who work in journalism or the legal profession, or indeed as parliamentarians, but about protecting the public and their ability to raise issues through these channels on a secure and confidential basis."

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Lord Strasberger, meanwhile, said: "There needs to be much better protection in the Bill, as we have already heard, for privileged communications such as those between lawyers and their clients, journalists and their sources and MPs and their constituents."

He added that the provision for the indiscriminate bulk collection of data from internet users is "highly intrusive, difficult and expensive to implement".

He also pointed out that reviews of such policies in Denmark and the USA have revealed they had no significant impact on detecting and preventing crime. The former country therefore abandoned the practice in 2014, although the latter has not formally undertaken any such measures yet.

Lord Paddick sounded a similar note, with both him and Strasberger pointing out that the security services, who are supposed to benefit from this clause, had not actually asked for it.

Strasberger also hit out at the continued threat to encryption contained in the Bill, saying that it needs to be removed in its entirety, for both security and democratic reasons.

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"Strong encryption, as the Government have recognised in this House, is vital to our personal security and the integrity of our finance and commerce sectors. If [the bill] were enacted unchanged, innocent UK citizens would not be far behind their North Korean and Chinese counterparts in a contest to be the most spied-on population in the world. The powers in the Bill are very broad and very intrusive--more so than in any of our democratic allies."

Although the House of Commons has voted to pass the IP Bill, the Lords could defeat it, particularly as there is a Conservative minority in the house.

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