Progress of the Snoopers Charter

In March, the Investigatory Powers Bill passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons. The Bill, once implemented into law, could regulate certain investigatory powers of law enforcement agencies in the UK. The Bill will be of particular interest to internet and phone companies (on whom the Bill places a number of obligations), others in the tech and security industries and society as a whole - whose privacy is potentially at stake.

Despite passing its Second Reading, many concerns with the Bill still remain about the extent of powers to be granted to law enforcement agencies and the restrictions on these powers. Detailed examination of the Bill will take place when it reaches its next stage in the legislative process and is considered by a Public Bill Committee.

The Bill is receiving a lot of media attention at a time when tensions between the right to privacy and the prevention of terrorism are rife. In the US, these tensions have been played in the recent Apple v FBI court cases concerning the unlocking of iPhones of criminals and terror suspects. The most high profile of these cases, which concerned the unlocking of the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooters, has now ended prematurely after the FBI announced they had accessed the device by other means and therefore no longer needed Apple to unlock the device (in Apple’s view, this would have set a dangerous precedent, undermining privacy). However, the debate remains very much alive and is likely to inform the progress of the Bill through the UK Parliament.

We considered the proposals under the Bill and the main concerns raised, as well as the issues raised in the Apple v FBI San Bernardino case, in more detail in our article Privacy, Cybersecurity and Investigatory Powers.

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