The House of Lords is considering amendments to the proposed bill, which has drawn controversy because critics say it will give the UK police and security serves wide-ranging powers to collect bulk data on peoples' use of the telephone, Internet, social media and other communications devices.
The Bill, as currently drafted, allows for warrants to be issued in relation to persons, premises, locations, organizations, or "a group of persons who share a common purpose or who carry on, or may carry on, a particular activity" or for "testing or training activities." Critics say this is a wide-ranging draft that will include political and workers' union activities.
According to campaign group Liberty, to "describe" a subject does not necessarily identify a person; to describe "as many" subjects as practicable means that not all subjects need be described; and the leniency of "reasonably practicable" could, in some circumstances, mean that no subject need be described at all. This loose drafting has been criticized by the Intelligence and Security Committee, the Joint Committee on the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill, and the Joint Committee on Human Rights.
"The intention in the Bill is to require that subjects of warrants are described with sufficient flexibility that a warrant can still be issued where the identities of the individual/s concerned are yet to be known. However, the warrant requirements far exceed this necessity and are so broadly drafted as to permit 'general warrants' — long outlawed under common law," Liberty said.
The Lords are set to pass the bill into law, despite protests that the language in the bill 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 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.
However, he concluded that:
"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."
Anderson's review was 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."