Under Snooper’s Charter, UK Government Gets First Look at Tech Products, Features

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If the updated Snooper’s Charter becomes UK law, the government will receive sneak peeks of all new tech products and services launched by companies operating in Britain, an examination of the draft shows. Criticism of the Investigatory Powers Act and its supporting Interception of Communications Code of Practice (PDF) draft under consideration by the UK government is mounting as more details are revealed.

“CSPs subject to a technical capability notice must notify the Government of new products and services in advance of their launch, in order to allow consideration of whether it is necessary and proportionate to require the CSP to provide a technical capability on the new service,” reads a rule in the draft’s section on “Variation of technical capability notices.”

Recent research from Broadband Genie based on a survey of 1,600 people in the UK found that 75 percent of respondents were unaware of the bill, while 33 percent were uninterested in what it entails.

While the draft seems to satisfy most concerns of law enforcement organizations with the challenges posed by end-to-end encryption, criticism has been swift and widespread. An open letter to the government was co-signed by over 100 diverse stakeholders when the draft of the Investigatory Powers Act was released in March.

“It is not solely the lack of judicial oversight and accountability that could push companies away from the UK,” Millie Graham Wood of advocacy group Privacy International told Zero Day in an email. “Many companies have submitted evidence to the Investigatory Powers Bill committees on the impact of having to retain communications data for up to 12 months.”

In addition to concerns about the effects of the bill on free speech, and about the additional burdens placed on companies, the obligatory government preview raises questions about the security assurances the government can offer to tech companies sharing proprietary information on its way to market.

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