The legislation — known as the Snoopers' Charter — is being put through parliament in the UK Government's latest attempt to stem the criticism brought about after the revelations by ex-CIA employee Edward Snowden, who exposed mass surveillance and collection of data by the UK intelligence agency GCHQ and the US National Security Agency (NSA).
A series of parliamentary investigations and reports have exposed deep flaws in previous legislation that critics say allowed for the widespread data gathering to go on unchecked, as well as going against UK and international law and being in breach of human rights and privacy.
Critics have said the current draft legislation will allow police and the intelligence agencies to demand that communication services providers (CSPs) retain mass volumes of data on users' emails, browsing history, social media use and mobile communication.
Responding to the publication of the draft legislation, Director of Liberty Shame Chakraborty told Sputnik:
"Less than three weeks ago, MPs advised 123 changes to the majorly flawed Draft Bill. The powers were too broad, safeguards too few and crucial investigatory powers entirely missing.
"Minor Botox has not fixed this bill. The government must return to the drawing board and give this vital, complex task appropriate time. Anything else would show dangerous contempt for parliament, democracy and our country's security."
'Backdoor Access', Flexibility, Secrecy
In a particularly controversial move, the proposed law will allow for the security services to demand 'backdoor access' to their technology — a case reminiscent of the US FBI's current face-off with Apple over backdoor access to its phone technology.
Documents associated with the draft legislation state that "CSPs may be required under section 217 of the Act to provide a technical capability [backdoor access] to give effect to interception, equipment interference, bulk acquisition warrants or communications data acquisition authorizations. The purpose of maintaining a technical capability is to ensure that, when a warrant is served, companies can give effect to it securely and quickly".
The proposed law will also allow a UK Secretary of State "felixible" powers to demand access to communications data, the power to demand communications be routed via a certain electronic path and secrecy from the CSPs.
The documents state that: "…the Secretary of State will need to retain flexibility to respond.
"However, a notice may typically require a CSP to provide services to support secure communications by the agencies, for example by arranging for a communication to travel via a particular route in order to improve security. They may additionally cover the confidential provision of services to the agencies within the CSP, such as by maintaining a pool of trusted staff for management and maintenance of sensitive communications services."
Scarlet Kim, a legal officer at Privacy International, wrote in an opinion column in The Guardian:
"The UK government's exercise of powers to compel technology companies to hack their own products or services will be wielded in secret, protected from public scrutiny. The investigatory powers bill contains strict non-disclosure provisions, gagging telecommunications providers from revealing information about any hacking warrants or notices."