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My Lords, as I said earlier in Committee, it is important that, in assessing any proposal made in the Bill, we strike the balance between the need for it and any possible negative consequences, and whether that may weaken the security of a device, enabling the malign elements, as opposed to benign, to penetrate systems. As I understand it, the purpose of the amendment is to try to ensure that that balance is clear in the Bill. It would place an obligation on those seeking warrants and those considering them to look at whether that balance has been struck and ensure that it has.
It is reasonable for those seeking warrants to demonstrate that they have considered whether there are any negative consequences of the action they are prepared to take, particularly if it leads to a weakening of the general security of a wider system that may mean it is prone to attack from cybercriminals or others accordingly, or that there is likely to be a large amount of collateral damage in other people’s information being made available to the authorities.
I make it clear that I do not think the fact that the information of other people who are not the purpose of a warrant may be compromised is necessarily a reason why we should not proceed with this. It should be balanced with the consequences. For example, I can conceive of circumstances where a warrant might be sought for a machine in an internet café. Clearly, that is because certainly individuals are thought to be using it. In any application I would want consideration to be given to what would be done about those other, presumably entirely innocent individuals who might use the same machine.
I am concerned that, as part of the process, there should be consideration of the downsides of a particular application: whether it is weakening the system or interfering with the privacy of other people who are not specifically targeted. If either is the case, there should be clear consideration of what can be done to minimise those risks. The fact that another person is not the subject does not necessarily mean that it should not be proceeded with. It is a matter of proportionality—the benefits that will be gained from the action being taken, and whether that is properly considered by those making the application and those considering whether to approve it. For those reasons, the amendment is broadly helpful. I hope that Ministers may be prepared to accept this or something like it to provide that assurance.