The Lords are set to pass the bill into law, despite protests that the language remains ambiguous. The Center for Democracy & Technology has slammed the bill as giving the police and intelligence agencies "vast surveillance authorities on British intelligence and law enforcement entities, with weak oversight over the use of those powers."
The outcry over the proposed collection of bulk data — peoples' Internet history, email activity, phone calls and social media usage — caused lawmakers to refer the issue to 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.
"Bulk powers have been essential to the security and intelligence agencies over the last decade and will be increasingly important in the future. The acquisition and use of bulk data — information acquired in large volumes and used subject to special restrictions — provides vital and unique intelligence that the security and intelligence agencies cannot obtain by any other means," he concluded.
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."
Bella Sankey, Policy Director for Liberty, said: "Liberty called for an impartial, independent and expert inquiry into these intrusive powers — yet sadly this rushed review failed on all three counts.
"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."