The U.K. this week moved a step closer to passing a controversial surveillance law that would give authorities sweeping power to tap into and monitor British citizens’ digital communications while forcing tech companies, including U.S. titans like Apple, Google and Facebook, to turn over customer data on demand. The battle between security hawks and privacy advocates over the so-called Snooper’s Charter, introduced after the November terrorist attacks in Paris, mirrors the legal contretemps in the U.S. surrounding the FBI’s efforts to force Apple to decrypt an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino killers.
Here’s what’s in the bill, and what’s at stake.
What is the Snooper’s Charter?
Officially known as the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill, but widely and somewhat derisively referred to as the Snooper’s Charter, the proposed law was first published in November by Home Secretary Theresa May. She revealed at the time that many of the powers contained in the bill were already being used by the government’s spying arm, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), but would be explicitly stated in the new legislation for the first time.
May said the legislation was necessary to combat the increased threat of terrorism in light of the Paris attacks, saying: “There should be no area of cyberspace which is a haven for those who seek to harm us to plot, poison minds and peddle hatred under the radar.”