UK peers will attempt to rush through changes to Snooper’s Charter today

26 Jan 2015

Four lords today will propose changes to the Snooper’s Charter upheld by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, which aims to give intelligence agencies greater powers to snoop on encrypted communications.

UK and French lawmakers have been pushing for new laws that would boost wiretapping and interception capabilities to read encrypted communications on services like Whatsapp, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter, particularly following the tragic events that saw 20 people die in Paris this month.

On a recent visit to the US Cameron is understood to have asked US President Barack Obama to put pressure on US internet firms like Twitter and Facebook to co-operate with UK intelligence agencies as they seek to track online activities of Islamist extremists.

It is understood that a cross-party alliance consisting former defence ministers, police chiefs and intelligence commissioners will try to force the so-called Snooper’s Charter into law before the general election in the UK.

The group is led by former Conservative defence secretary Lord King, former counter-terror law reviewer Liberal Democrat Lord Carlile, former Labour Defence Minister Lord West and former Metropolitan police commissioner Lord Blair.

Democratic debate

The changes proposed would give the UK Home Secretary new powers to require telecom operators to retain data and disclose it to the security and intelligence community so they can analyse it.

Failure to retain the data for at least a year would lead to prosecution.

The US-based Electronic Frontier Foundation has warned the public and politicians to be “wary of any attempt to rush through new surveillance and law enforcement powers.”

The lobby group warned: “Nowhere, however, has the attempt to bypass democratic debate been more blatant than in the United Kingdom, where a handful of unelected peers has taken the language of an old and discredited Internet surveillance proposal, and attempted to slam it, at outrageously short notice, into the wording of a near-complete counter-terrorism bill.”

It urged politicians and the public: “The result is that, unless you take action to warn Britain’s House of Lords in time for the debate on Monday, there is a good chance that Britain will pass the infamous Snooper’s Charter into law with barely any oversight.”

Digital spy image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years