House of Lords Amends Investigatory Powers Bill to Recognise Privacy as a “Fundamental Priority”

Members of the UK House of Lords have amended the Investigatory Powers Bill to make privacy a fundamental concern by inserting the following in clause 1 –

“This Act sets out the extent to which certain investigatory powers may be used to interfere with privacy.”

The amendment, proposed by Lord Janvrin, a member of the UK parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (“ISC“), was approved on Tuesday 11 October 2016, after a debate in which many members highlighted the need for safeguards against disproportionate use of the Bill by public authorities.

Introducing the proposed amendment, Lord Janvrin stated “This amendment seeks simply to reinforce the Government’s approach. The ISC still feels that there is merit in placing a simple statement right at the forefront of the legislation to provide additional clarity that there should be no doubt that privacy protection remains a fundamental priority.”

Lord Janvrin also emphasised that the amendment will help to “underline at the very outset of the Bill that a delicate balance must be struck between an individual’s right to privacy and the exceptional powers needed by the intelligence agencies to ensure our safety and security.”

The Investigatory Powers Bill would allow UK law enforcement and intelligence agencies the power to require telecommunication service providers to retain and provide communications data, including “internet connections records.” It would also create a framework including authorisation procedures, safeguards and oversight arrangements that would apply to the storing and accessing of such data. The Bill’s main purposes are to combat terrorism and serious crime whilst also protecting the UK’s economic interest.

The Bill defines new rules to govern the interception of communications and use of equipment interference powers. It also outlines the UK intelligence agencies’ qualified right to obtain personal datasets in bulk for national security reasons under warrants issued by UK ministers.