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Spy law needs significant changes, says parliamentary committee …

The draft internet monitoring bill needs significant work , a committee of MPs and peers has said. The draft Investigatory Powers Bill will force internet service providers to store all web activity for a year. It will also authorise the bulk collection of personal data and hacking of smartphones by Britain s spies.

Ministers say the changes will help to catch terrorists and tackle organised crime by updating laws to fit the new technology being used by criminals. But the Joint Committee on the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill said in a report that although the bill was on the right track, the government must address significant concerns if it is to command the support necessary for keeping the records. The committee said it has not been persuaded that enough work has been done to conclusively prove the case for the plans to force communications service providers to collect and store data known as internet connection records.

Ministers must also spell out their plans on encryption to ensure that they will not force tech firms to provide a back door for spies, the parliamentary committee said. The bill was earlier criticised as a dragnet approach and disproportionate by former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Mr Clegg told BBC Radio 4 s Today programme: What the Home Office is in essence proposing is that in order to be able to surveil and analyse something, they re saying they want to collect everything on everyone, and that is a dragnet approach which I ve always felt is disproportionate.

He said an analogy of finding terrorist or criminal activity on the internet as being like a needle in a haystack was comforting , but that the reality is a little different. Implying that everyone may be guilty when millions of innocent people are just going about their everyday business free of any wrongdoing at all is something which is not in keeping with long-standing British traditions, Mr Clegg said. The question is about proportionality.

Is it proportionate in a liberal democracy to retain information on everything from the music you download on Spotify, to the app that you open, to the supermarket website that you visit, in order to go after the bad guys? Very few countries, other than Russia that I m aware of, take this dragnet approach. He said he favoured a narrower approach to data retention, and that other countries concentrate on collecting data on those people who flicker on the radar screen of security services in the first place.

Mass surveillance claims have been hotly disputed by the Home Secretary Theresa May, who says the legislation includes tough new privacy safeguards, such as judicial oversight and warrants. But her proposal to make service providers store internet connection records for 12 months, so that they can be accessed by investigators, have been criticised as vague and confusing. Tech firms have told MPs it might not be possible to separate out domain names such as bbc.co.uk from individual web pages in the way the home secretary wants.

There are also concerns, expressed by Apple and other tech giants, that the bill will force them to adopt weaker encryption standards. Communications firms such as your broadband or mobile phone providers will be compelled to hold a year s worth of your communications data. This new information will be details of services, websites and data sources you connect to when you go online and is called your Internet Connection Record 1 .

For instance, it could be your visit to the BBC website from a mobile phone at breakfast and then how you used an online chat service at lunch. It does not include the detail of what you then did within each service. There is no comparable legal duty to retain these records in the rest of Europe, the USA, Canada or Australia this appears to be a world first.

In simple terms, police say they want to be able to get at these records, going back a year, so that if they get a lead on a suspect, they can establish more about their network or conspiracy. Under existing law, agencies can already ask firms to start collecting this data but they can t access historic information because companies don t keep it. Police argue that this means many investigations into crime with an online element go cold because they can t link activity to specific people or devices.

Read more here. 2 Much of the vast bill is devoted to the activities of Britain s intelligence agencies, and is focused on making clear the legal basis under which they operate, following revelations by US whistleblower Edward Snowden. It proposes equipment interference warrants, allowing spies to hack into suspects smartphones and computers and download data from them. either within the UK or abroad.

Other warrants will cover the downloading of bulk databases of personal data, which could include medical records, and the sweeping up internet traffic passing through the UK for future analysis by GCHQ. Some of these techniques were not known to the public until recently and were covered by disparate and obscure pieces of legislation, some of which predated the internet. The draft bill also proposes: Giving a panel of judges the power to block spying operations authorised by the home secretary A new criminal offence of knowingly or recklessly obtaining communications data from a telecommunications operator without lawful authority , carrying a prison sentence of up to two years Local councils to retain some investigatory powers, such as surveillance of benefit cheats, but they will not be able to access online data stored by internet firms The Wilson doctrine preventing surveillance of Parliamentarians communications to be written into law Police will not be able to access journalistic sources without the authorisation of a judge A legal duty on British companies to help law enforcement agencies hack devices to acquire information if it is reasonably practical to do so Former Appeal Court judge Sir Stanley Burnton is appointed as the new interception of communications commissioner 3 Setting out the draft bill in November, Mrs May said it was a significant departure from previous plans, dubbed the Snooper s Charter by critics, which were blocked by the Lib Dems.

She said it would provide some of the strongest protections and safeguards anywhere in the democratic world and an approach that sets new standards for openness, transparency and oversight . But the Intelligence and Security Committee, chaired by Conservative MP Dominic Grieve, said earlier this week it did not do enough to protect privacy and appears to have suffered from a lack of sufficient time and preparation . The Home Office will take the scrutiny committee s report and that of the ISC and two other committees into account when drawing up the final legislation to be published later this year.

Source By: BBC References ^ Internet Connection Record (www.gov.uk) ^ Read more here. (www.bbc.co.uk) ^ appointed as the new interception of communications commissioner (www.gov.uk)

Deadline extended for talks on Scots fiscal framework

The deadline for a deal underpinning Scotland s future finances has been pushed back as negotiations continue on the so-called fiscal framework. A deal was meant to be agreed by Friday, but MSPs have now pushed the deadline back to 23 February. The prime minister has said the Scottish government must be prepared to give ground 1 in the talks.

But some key opposition politicians have told BBC Scotland they back the Scottish government s stance. Talks over the fiscal framework have been going on for several months, but have stalled over differences of opinion on the Smith Commission s no detriment principle the idea that any deal should not impact adversely on the budgets of Scotland or the rest of the UK. The Scotland Bill on new powers for the Scottish Parliament, which is currently going through Westminster, cannot proceed until an agreement is reached.

The two sides will now have extra time to thrash out a deal after the devolution committee demanded a full explanation of their positions by a meeting on 23 February. Convener Bruce Crawford said there would be very substantial impacts on the Scottish Parliament s ability to scrutinse the deal if matters were delayed beyond 19 February. He said the Holyrood and Westminster teams would have to give a full explanation of their position on a fiscal framework at the committee s meeting on 23 February, whatever the circumstances .

Population growth Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney said Scotland stood to lose about 3bn over 10 years under proposals put forward by the UK Treasury. This would be because Scotland s population is expected to grow more slowly than the UK s. Scottish ministers have argued that they cannot effectively tackle slower population growth without immigration powers.

Six of the 10 members of the cross-party Smith Commission 2 which drew up the blueprint for the devolution settlement, including senior Labour, Liberal Democrat and Scottish Green members, have said they broadly support the Scottish government over the issue. They include Labour s Iain Gray, Liberal Democrat Tavish Scott and Green co-convenor Maggie Chapman, who explicitly back calls for budget protection from the population effect. Mr Gray said: To a degree I think I largely agree with John Swinney on this position.

What has been talked about is a population trend which is in place and would be nothing to do with decisions that had been taken in Scotland. In my view it does have to be factored into the discussions. Mr Scott agreed it was logical that the new fiscal framework should take Scotland s slower population growth into account.

Terrible shame And Ms Chapman said: We heard time and time again during the referendum campaign that if Scotland voted No it would be better for everybody because we were all in this together. Under that principle, the UK government has a responsibility to ensure that Scotland does not face detriment. Lord Smith himself said he would not comment on the details while talks were ongoing, but said it was vital the two governments resolve their differences.

He said: The new powers set out in the Scotland Bill will lead to a transformation of the powers held by Holyrood and it would be a terrible shame if they were to fall away at this late stage. But Adam Tomkins, a Conservative member of the Smith Commission, said: The no detriment principle is a principle that must be applied equally to taxpayers in Scotland and to taxpayers in the rest of the United Kingdom, it is not a one-way insurance policy. Meanwhile, a House of Commons committee has called on the two governments to explore an adjusted version of the method favoured by the Scottish government in order to find a solution to the apparent deadlock.

The method known as per capita indexed deduction would take Scotland s slower population growth into account. More attractive The Scottish Affairs Committee said an additional adjustment could be applied to secure the principle of taxpayer fairness for both Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. It has also suggested that the operation of the new fiscal framework should be reviewed after four years.

During Prime Minister s Questions on Wednesday, David Cameron said no-one is keener on agreement than he was. But in a letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Mr Cameron said the Scottish government need to be prepared to move towards us . He said any deal must to be fair for taxpayers across the UK as well as in Scotland, and claimed the Scottish government seemed to lack confidence in its ability to make Scotland an even more attractive place for people to live.

Mr Swinney responded: Any mechanism that would systematically reduce the Scottish government budget simply as a result of devolution and before the Scottish government makes any policy choices is unacceptable and will not be agreed by the Scottish government .

Source By: BBC References ^ must be prepared to give ground (www.bbc.co.uk) ^ members of the cross-party Smith Commission (www.bbc.co.uk)