To MI5 with love: A new surveillance bill extends the powers of spies

Spooks, ministers and civil-rights picketers all agree on one thing: Britain’s barnacled surveillance laws need updating. Surprisingly, they have found other things to agree on, too. The publication of the Investigatory Powers Bill on November 4th was approached with trepidation: an earlier version, the so-called “snoopers’ charter” of 2012, produced screaming rows in government, and eventually foundered. This time there is consensus: rules for how much internet data spies, police and councils can collect from the public and what they can do with the information are to be set down more explicitly than ever before.A number of things have helped. Three independent reports informing the bill all pointed roughly in the same direction. Spies and police, who rely on the public for leads, are keen to win their confidence and willing to be more open (GCHQ, the signal-intelligence agency, recently gave the Times a rare tour). The Liberal Democrats, staunchly pro-privacy and sceptical of surveillance, are no longer in government.

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