Britain's Investigatory Powers Bill (IPB) was introduced in draft form in November 2015. Its 245 pages contained the UK government's plans to create a statutory basis for the country's mass surveillance, data retention,and remote intrusion practices. The bill follows a series of successful challenges to the UK's previous legal frameworks, and growing knowledge and concern about the unchecked practices of the General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the UK's signals intelligence service.
Instead of restraining the growing intrusion into private life of the UK's state surveillance institutions, the proposed bill sought to legitimise it, establishing new wide-ranging state powers to spy on innocent persons, and to compel private companies and individuals to comply in secret with UK government orders.
EFF has been working with Don't Spy on Us, a coalition of British and international non-profits working to defeat the IPB's proposed powers. We've chosen to concentrate on the bill's Equipment Interference (EI) provisions. Equipment interference is the GCHQ term for government hacking: breaking into private computing devices in order to spy directly on their users, or to secretly collect communications data being transported via those machines. The Investigatory Powers Bill, one of the first laws to explicitly permit such techniques for law enforcement and intelligence work, contains very little in the way of oversight, and grants the British government an almost blank check for deploying malware against individual users as well as the heart of the Internet's infrastructure. It also demands that private companies and individuals assist in the deployment of this spyware, no matter where they operate in the world, and requires that this assistance be kept permanently secret from customers, partners, and the general public.
EFF has submitted evidence to the three Parliamentary committees tasked with analyzing the draft bill, and suggested amendments to MPs and peers considering the bill as submitted to Parliament in March 2016.