LONDON (Reuters) - The British government has significant work to do to justify its plans to allow the authorities to spy on the public’s internet use, a powerful committee of lawmakers said on Thursday, calling for changes to the far-reaching surveillance bill.
Last November, the government unveiled its plans for sweeping new surveillance powers, a watered-down version of a so-called “snoopers’ charter” which was dropped because of deep concerns, including from a similar scrutinizing committee.
On Thursday the lawmakers examining the new powers said that while it supported the bill in principle, it believed the proposed law needed significant amendments and made 86 recommendations for change.
“There is much to be commended in the draft Bill, but the Home Office (interior ministry) has a significant amount of further work to do before parliament can be confident that the provisions have been fully thought through,” said Paul Murphy, the committee chairman.
Western governments have been grappling with how to bolster the powers of spies and police in the digital age while addressing concerns about mass surveillance raised by leaks from former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden in 2013.
The British government says its bill is vital because police and the security agencies have fallen behind terrorists and serious criminals they are trying to track because of technological advances.
The most controversial aspect of the bill is the plan to allow the authorities access to “internet connection records” - which websites people had visited but not the specific pages or their full browsing history.
Tech firms such as Apple have also warned that any plans to weaken data encryption could damage their security systems and the parliamentary committee said ministers needed to further spell out their plans on this area.
Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Kate Holton and Estelle Shirbon