The UK government has passed an amendment to the Investigatory Powers Bill, which will emphasize the protection of privacy.

The controversial bill, approved in the House of Commons in June, has come under fire in the past, on grounds of the privacy and freedom of the British people being compromised. The bill, dubbed the Snooper’s Charter, would essentially give the UK government unprecedented power to spy on citizens’ web browsing history, also letting it to legally intercept internet communications from anywhere in the world.

The new amendment was introduced by Lord Janvrin, a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), during a report-stage session carried out in the House of Lords yesterday. During his intervention, Janvrin explained that his proposal had been previously recommended by the ISC in its report on the draft bill, published earlier this year. He said,

When the ISC reported on the draft Bill, we recommended that privacy protection should form the backbone of the legislation, around which the exceptional, intrusive powers would then be built. This recommendation was to underline at the very outset of the Bill that a delicate balance must be struck between an individual’s right to privacy and the exceptional powers needed by the intelligence agencies to ensure our safety and security.

Janvrin did note that the bill had, so far, undergone substantial amendments and that it had been improved significantly in terms of the amount of privacy protection, but he felt that this was not enough. In a bid to cement the online privacy of the British citizen, he said that the purpose of his proposal was to reinforce the government’s approach by including a more clear pro-privacy statement.

Earl Howe, the Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence, approved the amendment, saying,

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Janvrin, has again spoken persuasively on the importance of making clear that privacy is at the heart of the Bill. The amendment tabled in his name, on behalf of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, serves to reinforce that point and provide greater clarity. He will be pleased to know that, on that basis, I am happy to support it.

The Investigatory Powers Bill is poised to undergo further review in the House of Lords, and will become law only on receiving royal assent.


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