Urgent: Stop the new Snooper’s Charter annihilating our rights

Home Secretary Theresa May's Investigatory Powers Bill currently violates rights Home Secretary Theresa May's Investigatory Powers Bill currently violates rights © Home Office via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

The UK government is rushing a bill through parliament that, if it becomes law, will violate the human rights of every single person in the UK. The Investigatory Powers Bill (IPB) – otherwise known as the Snooper’s Charter – is a dangerous piece of legislation that will needlessly violate the rights of citizens in the UK, and potentially around the world.

Take action to stop the Bill violating our rights

All UK citizens will be put under surveillance. Your internet history will be filed and stored. Your emails and and messages will be processed even read and stored. And it’s not only the spooks who’ll be poking around, as the police, councils and others will be in on some of the pot. Mass surveillance of this kind is a human rights abuse, and who knows how your data could be used if that information got into the wrong hands? Who’s to say that these are the right ones?

There are just days to influence the Bill at this stage. We urgently need you to join the call to make sure this Bill – which the government is racing through parliament at breakneck speed – doesn’t undermine our rights.

A Bill not fit for purpose

The IPB was introduced to parliament at the start of this month. It is an attempt by the government to combine existing powers held by the police and the state around surveillance and interception– at the moment scattered over various laws – in one piece of legislation that is ‘fit for the digital age’. A positive move.

But the Bill in its current state is a regressive and dangerous piece of legislation that would have a devastating impact on our right to privacy in the UK and abroad. And once it’s law, it’ll be very hard to claw that right back.

What’s the urgency?

The Bill’s second reading is in a few days’ time, on Tuesday 15 March. This is the first chance for MPs to debate the proposals in the Commons – and they could feasibly vote the Bill down at this stage. They could also question its legitimacy and raise questions around the process and credibility of the Bill – questions that urgently need to be asked of the government.

Banksy graffiti near GCHQ in Cheltenham


What you can do

1. Join our campaign to protect human rights in the IPB

This is the first stage of the Bill that will continue through the Commons and Lords, unless it is voted out of the House on Tuesday.

The government is trying to get this legislation through at a fast pace (a problem in itself) so we’ll need you to be on standby to influence politicians at opportune moments, potentially at very short notice, to make sure that our rights aren’t lost through this Bill.

The first thing you can do is join our fight to make sure the IPB doesn’t scrap our rights.

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2. Urgently contact your MP

We need you to make your MP aware of the dangers to rights that the IPB proposes – now.

It’s only a few days until the debate, so tweeting and phoning your MP is best (we doubt that an email would be read and processed in time if you sent it now – this Bill calls for more immediate forms of communication!).

Send your MP a copy of our briefing for parliamentarians and ask them to raise in the debate that the Bill violates human rights, is rushed and that expert scrutiny and advice from all angles is being ignored.

Tweet your MP

Search for your MP on Twitter

Hit this 'tweet' button and insert your MP's twitter handle to send them a copy of our briefing:

Or copy and paste (add your MP's twitter handle):

Hi [@yourMP], as my MP I ask you to attend #IPB debate on 15 Mar & speak up for rights. See @AmnestyUK info https://www.amnesty.org.uk/ipbbriefing

Phone your MP

Ok, it's a weekend - but you can always leave a voicemail or call on Monday.

Find a phone number for your MP's office

When you call, politely ask them to:

  • Attend the debate on Tuesday
  • Read our parliamentary briefing on the Bill
  • Raise the points at the debate that the Bill violates rights, is rushed and that scrutiny and advice is being ignored.


What’s the problem?

Mobile phone in street

The IPB is an opportunity for the UK to bring the surveillance practices of our government and its agencies in line with international human rights laws. But the current draft is alarmingly off-track.

It violates everyone’s human rights

We’ve been here before with the so-called Snooper’s Charter, a Bill known in parliament as the Draft Communications Data Bill but nicknamed for its proposal to place the entire population of the UK under extensive surveillance. The Snooper’s Charter (mark I) was thankfully thrown out in 2012, but the IPB contains many of its worst elements.

The proposals in the IPB are massively out of step with the trend of governments like the US who are at least partly rolling back surveillance programmes because of concerns over people’s privacy, focusing instead on protecting citizens’ rights. If the Bill continues unchallenged and unchanged, it could set a dangerous precedent for a global disintegration of rights.

The government is ignoring its own advice – as well as concerns from tech companies and civil rights groups across the board

The government has not only ignored the many serious concerns raised by us and other rights groups in response to an earlier draft published in November, but ignored the recommendations of three separate cross-party committees that they specifically commissioned to scrutinise the draft Bill. The tender to scrutiny from three different committees is highly unusual for a government Bill – and yet they’ve ignored the calls of alarm and extensive recommendations from each of the committees and ploughed on, blinkered, regardless.

Earlier this week, the UN privacy lead said the Bill was not human rights compliant and asked the government to outlaw rather than legitimise mass surveillance. 

It’s rushed

The speed of this Bill is alarming. Following criticism from parliamentarians, rights groups, industry experts and the UN, the government should be considering the alarm and concern across the board. Instead, they’ve continued to rush forward and have set the Bill’s second reading for Tuesday – just two weeks after the 245-page document was published.

MPs – and the rest of us – need a chance to digest and understand the huge ramifications of this new legislation.

There’s no one watching the watchmen

There is no real judicial oversight. This Bill grants a ton of power to state agencies – the police, for example – without adequate oversight. ‘Bulk’ (the cuddly name for ‘mass’) surveillance warrants will be authorised by the government itself instead of by a Judge. In other words, the application of the law will be kept away from the courts, where it could be rigorously scrutinised to make sure it was being used properly – and if not, abusers could be held to account. As it stands – nope.

This is a dark new world where the government can issue warrants to investigate and potentially punish citizens with no truly independent checks along the way.

We need you to speak up

Please sign up to support the campaign and contact your MP. We’ve written a briefing for MPs ahead of Tuesday to outline some of our most pressing concerns – you can tweet it to them using the instructions above.

In short, this Bill is one that not only ignores, but actively sabotages, your rights and mine. We need to speak up now.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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