With the Investigatory Powers Bill receiving its Second Reading in Parliament tomorrow, ISPA, the voice of the UK Internet industry, has set out industry concerns with the Bill through a briefing paper sent to parliamentarians. This paper can be found here and below.

Ahead of the debate tomorrow, ISPA Chair James Blessing said “ISPA supports reform of investigatory powers through a new Bill, but we are a long way from having a Bill that is clear and workable. Government needs to address concerns around its intentions, definitions and costs to enable industry to make a proper assessment of the Bill and help Parliament scrutinise the complex proposals. Getting this right is essential for the UK digital economy and user trust in services.

The key concerns are:

The industry has been asking for and fully supports a reform of the surveillance framework

The Internet industry has long argued for a reform of the legislative framework for surveillance in the UK. ISPA members are fully supportive of a stable and proportionate framework that provides law enforcement with proportionate and necessary powers without undermining user trust. It is vital that the final Bill is comprehensive, comprehensible, workable and complies with all relevant legal obligations.

The Bill does not do what the Home Office says it does

The Investigatory Powers Bill deals with complex technical matters, however, our members do not believe that complexity is an excuse for a poorly drafted Bill. On numerous occasions, there is a disconnect between what can be found on the face of the Bill and what the Government says the Bill will be used for. Given that the Bill is highly intrusive, the Government must put all of its intentions for how it plans to use the powers on to the face of the Bill. Reliance on speeches and non-legislative documents, such as codes of practice, to make clear what the Bill explicitly intends is unsatisfactory.

Key terms, concepts and cost implications remain unclear

In its attempt to future-proof the Bill, the Home Office has opted to define many of the key areas in such a way that our members still find it difficult to understand what the implications would be for them. Of key concern in this area are Internet Connection Records (an entirely new concept), encryption powers, extra-territorial application but also the various definitions of data in the Bill. Members have also expressed concern that the Home Office’s cost estimates are entirely unrealistic. These fundamental points need to be rectified whilst the Bill is being debated, so that MPs and the public can make a proper assessment of the proportionality of the Bill.

Full cost recovery needs to be written into the Bill

Cost recovery is one of the strongest check and safeguard as it provides a clear link between public expenditure and the exercise of investigatory powers. Despite a recommendation by the Science and Technology Committee, there is still no explicit commitment from government to pay the full costs incurred. Our members do not benefit from investigatory powers so it is important that industry is not put a competitive disadvantage and receive full cost recovery.

Parliament must be provided with sufficient time to scrutinise the Bill

Due to the concerns outlined above but also wider issues, our members have significant concerns about the ambitious timetable of the Bill. The Prime Minister himself argued at PMQs (04/11/2015) that the Investigatory Powers Bill is “one of the most important bills this House will discuss.” We recognise that three parliamentary committees have investigated the Bill and made 123 recommendations. However, even our members are not yet fully clear about what the Bill will mean for them. It is vital that Parliament is provided with a sufficient amount of time to scrutinise the Bill.