British Prime Minister Theresa May has been attempting to bring forward legislation in the form of the Investigatory Powers Bill — also known as the Snoopers' Charter — allowing for the bulk collection by Britain's MI5, MI6, GCHQ and the police — of communications data, including emails, phone calls, web browsing and social media.
The bill is still going through parliament, which had asked Britain's Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, to investigate some of the proposed legislation and rule on the operational case for bulk interception, bulk acquisition of communications data, bulk personal datasets and bulk equipment interference.
Report of my Bulk Powers Review now published: https://t.co/XOa8Ipuy6N— David Anderson (@terrorwatchdog) August 19, 2016
He concluded that the first three powers were already in use by the security services for cyber-defense, counterterrorism and counterespionage to child sexual abuse and organized crime. The review concluded that "other techniques could sometimes (though not always) be used to achieve these objectives: but that they would often be less effective, more dangerous, more resource-intensive, more intrusive or slower."
It also concluded that there is a "distinct (though not yet proven) operational case for the fourth power, bulk equipment interference."
Anderson's review was immediately criticized by the human rights group Liberty, which said the review "falls far short of the impartial, probing and well-evidenced investigation into the necessity of 'bulk' powers so urgently required."
"Liberty called for an impartial, independent and expert inquiry into these intrusive powers — yet sadly this rushed review failed on all three counts," Bella Sankey, Policy Director for Liberty, said.
"The review panel consisted of former Agency staff effectively asked to mark their own homework and a Reviewer who has previously advocated in favor of bulk powers. The report provides no further information to justify the agencies' vague and hypothetical claims and instead invites the public to 'trust us'.
"This was an opportunity to properly consider the range of targeted methods that could be used as effective alternatives to indiscriminate and potentially unlawful powers. That chance has been wasted."