Wednesday 18 November 2015

Draft Investigatory Powers Bill

On the 4th November 2015, The Home Secretary Theresa May introduced the first draft of the Investigatory Powers Bill to Parliament.

The Investigatory Powers Bill is essentially an updated and (some might say) improved version of Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). The draft Bill features a consolidation of existing Acts that were used by the intelligence community and police to gather information by multiple communication means, most notably internet communications.

The draft Bill introduces a new term; ICR. An ICR is an 'Internet Communication Record' - Theresa May went to great lengths to explain that an ICR is essentially the meta-data, or the Who, Where, When of internet communication, Not the content.
The Bill places a requirement on Internet Service Providers, and other unspecified 'Communication Services' to record everyone's (literally everyone's) ICRs on a rolling 12 month basis for possible future interrogation by Intelligence and Police services via a warrant.

I, Like many others, have read the draft Bill with great concern. Of course the internet and online communication as a whole needs to be policed, the intelligence community and the police should have the capability to detect and prevent crime in all public spaces. However I believe this should not be at the expense of the civil liberties and privacy of innocent people.

Fortunately this legislation has not yet passed and amendments will surely be made. This gives all of us the opportunity to contact our MPs and express our concerns (if you have them of course!).

The Open Rights Group is a organisation that stands up for digital civil liberties and the right of privacy in the UK. It is currently fighting for our rights online and helping to steer the government in the right direction when it comes to legislation impacting the internet.
The Open Rights Group provides a service on their website that will enable you to simply and easily email your MP to express your concerns with regards to this Bill. It can be found here.

For inspiration, My email to my MP is shown below. (I have removed some personal information which I do not wish to publish online).

".. I am writing to express my concerns about the Government's draft Investigatory Powers Bill. I would like you to use your position in the Conservative party to push for changes to the Bill.
The Bill in its current form represents a significant risk to the privacy of any and all users of the internet in Britain.
In particular, the proposed requirement of internet service providers and communications providers to record internet connection records (ICRs) for up to 12 months.
As a degree student of IT Security and Computer Forensics I can inform you that criminals who choose to utilise the internet as a means of achieving criminal goals could easily circumnavigate this form of detection by using freely available technology, such as a VPN. 
A VPN is a Virtual Private Network. A commercial VPN (designed for privacy) is typically a paid service used by an individual (criminals, businesses and law abiding persons alike) to forward all network traffic from their computer to a remote server (typically outside of the UK) which places encrypted requests for websites and other online services on their behalf and forwards them back. This has an effect of hiding and the users traffic and the true origin of the request. Technology such as a VPN would render the proposed form of surveillance useless.
VPNs are a vital technology, extensively used in the business sector and for individuals who require more advanced security when communicating online. I am by no means indicating that VPNs pose a risk in any way, simply they are an example of the technology available to defeat this form of surveillance.
With this said, my concern is that the proposed legislation (in particular the recording of ICRs) will do nothing more than to record the internet communication of innocent persons while professional criminals will use a cheap and trivial means to hide their online activities. 
I have further significant concerns with regards to privacy and how this will negatively impact Britain's direction in online communication going forward. These concerns are already well published and at the risk of this email becoming even longer, I will simply say that my views on privacy in this matter are firmly with those of the Open Rights Group (
I am more than happy to speak further with yourself or a representative if that would be of benefit in any way.
Thank you for taking the time to read my concerns."