HomeInsightsInvestigatory Powers Bill: Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation publishes Report of the Bulk Powers Review. Appointment of Technical Advisory Panel recommended.


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The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, has published the Report, which evaluates the operational case for four of the powers in the Investigatory Powers Bill currently before Parliament: bulk interception, bulk acquisition, bulk equipment interference and bulk personal datasets. These powers can be used only by MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.

The Report provides a full introduction to each of the powers and notes the generally favourable conclusions of those security-cleared persons who have in the past commented on their utility.

The Report concludes that there is a proven operational case for three of the bulk powers, and that there is a distinct (though not yet proven) operational case for bulk equipment interference.

The Report shows that bulk powers are used across the range of Agency activities, from cyber-defence, counter-espionage and counter-terrorism to child sexual abuse and organised crime.

Further, the Report finds, the bulk powers play an important part in identifying, understanding and averting threats in Great Britain, Northern Ireland and further afield. Where alternative methods exist, they are often less effective, more dangerous, more resource-intensive, more intrusive or slower.

The Report makes a single recommendation: that a Technical Advisory Panel of independent academics and industry experts be appointed by the Investigatory Powers Commission to advise on the impact of changing technology, and on how MI5, MI6 and GCHQ could reduce the privacy footprint of their activities.

Though it found that the bulk powers have a clear operational purpose, the Report accepts that technological changes will provoke new questions. Adoption of its Recommendation will enable such questions to be asked, and answered, on a properly informed basis.  For a link to the Report, click here.