Bulk interception warrants

Part of Investigatory Powers Bill – in the House of Commons at 1:45 pm on 7th June 2016.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Conservative, Beaconsfield 1:45 pm, 7th June 2016

Like everything else, I tend usually to say that we give the word its ordinary English meaning. I can accept that one may collect a dataset whose content is entirely innocuous and not really sensitive personal data at all, but which for some reason might contain a nugget of sensitive personal data that has crept in in some strange and perhaps unintended way. I accept that in those circumstances the protections we introduce are unnecessary; indeed, the truth is that the agencies would not even know that that information was there at the time they were acquiring it.

However, if we focus on the points I raised earlier—the Data Protection Act describes sensitive personal data as relating to a person’s race, political opinions, religious beliefs, trade union membership, physical or mental health, or sexual life—we are probably in quite a good place. I do not think a court would have too much difficulty being able to tell what falls one side of the line and what falls the other. However, like everything else, it is all open to a degree of interpretation, so I do not offer that to the hon. Gentleman as 100% perfection, although it is a good way forward and I think most of us would understand what sort of collected bulk data are likely to contain that sort of material.

Amendment 24 concerns specific warrants for bulk personal datasets. We are far less concerned about these, but again this provision would cover data relating to a person’s race, political opinions, religious beliefs, trade union membership, physical or mental health, or sexual life, and would ensure that the Secretary of State authorising the warrant would have the sensitivity of the data highlighted for them as part of their overall consideration of the necessity and proportionality of retaining and examining the dataset. I believe this may well be completely acceptable to the Government. Amendment 24 would mean that if there was an intention, for example, to acquire a dataset that clearly contained a great deal of information about people’s religious or political opinions, that would be specifically drawn to the Secretary of State’s attention in asking her or him to sign off the warrant, so that they were aware that that was being sought.

Finally in this list, I want to mention amendments 22 and 23, which are really carryovers from yesterday and concern the renewal of warrants to prevent two warrants from extending over a 12-month period, which I believe the Government have accepted, although that could not be considered yesterday.

I apologise for taking up so much of the House’s time, but I hope these amendments may help to clarify some of these areas of the Bill.