RAF Menwith Hill, a North Yorkshire surveillance station that provides communications and intelligence support to the UK and the US

MPs attack Snoopers' Charter

A group of MPs have criticised the UK government for the unclear and confusing terminology used in its Investigatory Powers Bill.

The draft Bill, which was unveiled last year and was widely dubbed the Snoopers' Charter, includes the appointment of judicial commissioners with powers to veto warrants for intrusive operations and a requirement for internet firms to store records of data relating to people's web and social media use for up to a year.

However, MPs in the Commons Science and Technology Committee have said that a number of terms in the draft legislation are poorly defined and will lead to uncertainties among firms over the likely scope and costs of implementing the proposed measures.

It argued that the Bill risks undermining Britain's technology sector and should be urgently reviewed.

The committee also raised concerns about powers to allow spies to hack into suspects' smartphones.

Conservative MP Nicola Blackwood, chairwoman of the committee, said: "We need our security services to be able to do their job and prevent terrorism, but as legislators we need to be careful not to inadvertently disadvantage the UK's rapidly growing tech sector.

"The current lack of clarity within the draft Investigatory Powers Bill is causing concern amongst businesses. There are widespread doubts over the definition, not to mention the definability, of a number of the terms used in the draft Bill."

A duty to store internet connection records (ICR), which detail services a device connects to but not users' full browsing history or the content of a communication, for up to a year is a major new measure in the bill.

Blackwood said the current draft contains a "very broad and ambiguous" definitions of ICRs.

Other terms such as 'telecommunications service', 'technical feasibility' and 'communications content' also need to be clarified, the committee said.

The Home Office estimates that the cost of retaining ICRs will amount to £174 million over 10 years and says providers' 'reasonable costs' will be reimbursed.

The security minister John Hayes said the government will consider the committee's report on the Bill before setting out its final proposals in the spring.

The Bill has also sparked the ire of other players in the technology sector. In January, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo wrote a joint letter to the UK government, attacking elements of the draft Bill.

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