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Investigatory Powers Bill - Committee (3rd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 19th July 2016.

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Photo of Lord Strasburger Lord Strasburger Liberal Democrat 3:45 pm, 19th July 2016

My Lords, I shall speak briefly on the amendments on the request filter. Along with internet connection records, the request filter is another power that first appeared in the draft Communications Data Bill and which died along with that ill-fated Bill. The view of the pre-legislative Joint Committee on that Bill, on which I sat, was that,

“the Request Filter introduces new risks, most obviously the temptation to go on ‘fishing expeditions’. New safeguards should be introduced to minimise these risks”.

The request filter was described as,

“essentially a federated database of all UK citizens’ communications data”.

I dare say that the committee would be even more worried when it said that in 2012 if it had seen how this Bill expanded the range of data to which the request filter can be applied. That expansion comes from the proposed introduction of internet connection records, which would reveal every detail of a person’s digital life and a very large part of their life in the real world. The effect of the request filter will be to multiply up the effect of intrusion into those data by allowing public authorities to make complex automated searches across the retained data from all telecoms operators. This has the potential for population profiling and composite fishing trips. It is bulk surveillance without the bulk label.

Use of the request filter would be self-authorised by the public authority without any judicial authorisation at all. The concept that the Government promote for bulk data is that they are passive retained records, which they say sit there unexamined until someone comes to the attention of the authorities. That concept is negated by the request filter. The data become an actively checked resource and are no longer passive. Will the Minister confirm that the request filter is not yet in existence and is not yet being used?

The request filter is a bulk power masquerading as an innocuous safeguard to reduce collateral intrusion. Unless and until the Government come forward with proposals to strictly limit use of the request filter through tighter rules and judicial approval for warrants, as is the case with other bulk powers, Clauses 63, 64 and 65 should not stand part of the Bill.