Investigatory Powers Bill in 'Ping Pong'

The Investigatory Powers Bill (also known as the “Snooper’s Charter”) on 2nd November again made its way back to the House of Commons, following a rejection of an amendment inserted by Parliament following a majority vote in the House of Lords.  During this “ping-pong” stage of the process, the Bill will continue to move back and forth between the House of Commons and the House of Lords until the Bill is finalised.

The Bill is intended to supersede the current legislation RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000) which governs the use and oversight of investigatory powers by law enforcement and intelligence agencies, following recommendations made from independent reviews undertaken in 2015.  The Bill makes provision for the interception of communications, equipment interference and the retention of communications data, including bulk sets of personal data and also deals with the treatment of the data seized and provision for the oversight of the powers contained within it.

In June this year a controversial element which would have required providers of services with end-to-end encryption (such as WhatsApp and Apple’s iPhone) to install “back doors” into encryption technology was removed.  As a result, Intelligence agencies and law enforcement can only ask providers to supply unencrypted datasets where the encryption has been applied by the provider itself, that is, where it holds the decryption key.

While the Bill does encroach on the privacy rights of those affected by enabling bulk interception by law enforcement and intelligence agencies it is unlikely, given the context of terrorism and other criminal activity along with the amendments made to the earlier versions of the text, to face much greater resistance to becoming law.  The Bill is expected to come into effect sometime in early 2017.