Snoopers Charter Bill Passed in UK

Posted on November 30, 2016

Tags: snoopers charter uk great britain surveillance big government privacy

After a year of debate in the House of Lords and House of Commons, the Investigatory Powers Bill has finally passed. The largest overhaul of the surveillance powers for government use, colloquially called the Snoopers Charter Bill, the law itself will be implemented in sections over the coming few years thanks to the timetable that is part of the regulations.

The department responsible for the law, the Home Office, will be testing out the provisions and developing plans for its full implementation. There will be consultation with those who partner with the new rules and regulations to make this law a reality in the lives of everyday Britons. The new law will replace the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act of 2014 which is due to sunset on 31 December, 2016.

The bill itself was introduced by current Prime Minister Theresa May when she was Home Secretary back in 2015. The law itself has come under fire from civil rights groups and those in the opposition party as they claim it is too intrusive and draconian in nature. Such opposition is not surprising as with any new surveillance bill brings about conflicts between the protection of individual rights and the security of the nation itself.

What It Does

The passage of the Act provides the UK government with the following powers of surveillance.

  • Individual Hacking: Called “equipment interference”, a warrant must be issued for its use.

  • Bulk Hacking: Used for those outside the UK, it allows for large-scale hacking

  • Web Records: Accessing data from internet providers, metadata, and more

  • Bulk Data: Storing bulk personal datasets from all types of individuals.

The new law will be supervised by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner (IPC) as well as commissioners from the judicial branch. The individual and bulk hacking along with accessing web records require warrants before they can be used. However, collecting bulk data can be performed without any warrant.

Controversy of the Investigatory Powers Act

Current Home Secretary Amber Rudd indicates that this new law will help the government protect the people when a heightened security threat exists in the UK. With the use of the internet by terrorists, the expansion of the powers is designed to help track and keep tabs on known entities while still protecting the rights of the individual. The Investigatory Powers Act as she claims will provide notable privacy protections and transparency in the actions that are taken.

Despite assurances, there have been over 100,000 people signing an online petition to repeal the legislation. Many believe that the law itself represents a direct threat to the privacy of individuals and goes too far in trying to keep track of terrorist groups. The view of the opposition is that the laws surpass those in most other democracies when it comes to its surveillance powers.

It remains to be seen how the impact of the Snoopers Charter Bill will have on the UK. There are already opposition groups forming for an overturn of the legislation. However, with the checks provided by the judicial branch, it may be enough to allow the new law to work without overt invasion of privacy.