Investigatory Powers Bill: technology issues Contents

4Our conclusions and the Joint Committee

82.The draft Investigatory Powers Bill addresses issues of fundamental importance for the country’s security, but also for the burdens that will arise from it—those that will be placed on communications businesses and those on law-abiding people who may suffer a loss of privacy. Technology is at the heart of the way the draft Bill’s provisions will be implemented, and felt. On that basis our inquiry has focussed on the technology issues, including practicality issues and the extent to which the burdens of technology-centred processes and costs will arise and be dealt with. Our conclusions about these matters are inevitably founded on a moving situation, with some details still being negotiated by the Government with communications industry representatives and other details being aired as the Joint Committee’s larger inquiry progresses.

83.We have not addressed the wider ethical issues involved, which we anticipate will feature in the Joint Committee’s inquiry and report. We have not considered, specifically, the security need or otherwise for the communications monitoring provisions in the draft Bill, nor whether they are proportionate to the threats that they are intended to deal with. We noted for example the increasing difficulty there will be in distinguishing between communications ‘data’ (which some CSPs will have to collect for ICRs) and communications ‘content’ (which they will not), but we have not examined the justification or otherwise for the degree of intrusiveness that collecting communications data will bring. We have not addressed the extent to which, as the Government imply, provisions on encryption are substantially new or merely consolidate existing law and the practices of the security authorities. Instead, we have examined the consequences for communications providers. We have described the way the provisions on ‘equipment interference’ hinge on definitions that are unclear and may have impacts on communications companies that use ‘open source’ data, but we have not examined whether the draft Bill changes the way the authorities use “tricks of the trade”130 to get access to devices and their communications.

84.Our findings—along with the evidence we have collected—focus on the technology aspects that the Joint Committee, we hope, will wish to take into account as it examines all aspects of the draft Bill.

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Prepared 30 January 2016