Home Secretary Theresa May attempted to defend her proposed spying bill to sceptical Members of Parliament at the House of Commons on Tuesday.
The controversial Investigatory Powers Bill is going through parliament at the moment. It is currently at the “second reading” phase, which is an early step in a long parliamentary process that will see the details of the legislation scrutinised at greater length over the coming months.
If passed in its current form, the bill would force telecoms companies to store internet browsing records for 12 months and authorise the bulk collection of personal data.
Labour and the Scottish National Party (SNP) said they backed the bill in principle but would withdraw their support unless major changes were made. The Liberal Democrats oppose the legislation.
Ahead of the second reading, Labour shadow secretary Andy Burnham told The Times, that there should be a “presumption of privacy” in the bill, as recommended by the Intelligence and Security Committee.
“We believe the bill must … start with a presumption of privacy, include a clearer definition of the information that can be held, and set a higher threshold to justify access,” he said.
Burnham added: “There also needs to be higher protection for journalists and their sources.”
The draft bill was amended several times after it was criticised by three separate parliamentary committees last year.
The Home Office published a revised bill on March 1 and presented it to parliament. On presenting the bill to fellow MPs, May said: “We have strengthened safeguards, enhanced privacy protections and bolstered oversight arrangements.”
Privacy activists at campaign groups like Big Brother Watch and Privacy International claim this level of surveillance is unacceptable. Technology companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft have also criticised the bill.