Closed Consultations

Draft Investigatory Powers Bill – evidence to committees

Last month the Government published a draft Investigatory Powers Bill for a period of pre-legislative scrutiny before a full Bill is introduced, expected to be in the Spring of 2016. Various Parliamentary committees are considering different aspects of the Bill.

In our evidence to these committees, Jisc is focussing on the new powers the draft Bill would give the Government to order “telecommunications operators” to prepare for future criminal investigations. In particular

  • The definition of “telecommunications operator” is much wider than the public electronic communications networks, “ISPs” or “CSPs” that have been covered by previous data retention legislation. It appears to include any organisation that operates a network, including businesses, universities, colleges and the Janet network itself;
  • Any such organisation could, in future, be ordered to implement “filtering arrangements” or “technical measures” to facilitate future warrants to obtain communications data or content respectively. These terms are neither defined nor limited by the text of the draft Bill, only examples are given. It appears that any technically feasible change could be ordered, affecting all communications through the systems, not just those that turn out to be the subject of warrants. If enhanced access to data or content is available it seems inevitable that it will be discovered and used by criminals, as has happened in the past. Orders that harm the intended function of the network or service (for example by making it less flexible or reliable) are permitted;
  • Organisations will be prohibited from revealing that they have received any type of order. This appears likely to prevent Jisc helping customers and law enforcement authorities, as we do at present, to develop efficient processes and safeguards for criminal investigations. More widely, it is likely to damage trust in all UK organisations falling within the definition of “telecommunications operator”, whether or not they have actually received an order.

When the Committees publish the evidence they receive, we’ll add links here:

By Andrew Cormack

I'm Chief Regulatory Advisor at Jisc, responsible for keeping an eye out for places where our ideas, services and products might raise regulatory issues. My aim is to fix either the product or service, or the regulation, before there's a painful bump!

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