UK House of Lords approves snoopers' charter

By EDRi · November 19, 2003

On 13 November, the UK House of Lords unexpectedly approved a very
controversial ‘Snoopers’ Charter’. The three pieces of secondary
legislation approve a ‘voluntary’ data retention scheme, and give a long
list of government agencies self-authorised access to phone and Internet

Throughout the debate it appeared that the government’s proposals to place
every UK email and phone account under surveillance was doomed.
Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Cross Bench peers had vowed to oppose
them. The Joint Human Rights Committee of the Parliament had expressed
‘grave reservations’ about the plans. Independent legal analysis had ruled
them unlawful. Grim faced Home Office Officials sitting in the Advisors
Box of the Lord’s had admitted they were expecting the worst. But in spite
of all that, at the eleventh hour the government snatched victory from the
jaws of defeat.

EDRI-members Privacy International and the Foundation for Information
Policy Research, which have campaigned to defeat the proposals, were
delighted that two important motions were approved by the Lords.

Lord Phillips proposed that the Interception of Communications
Commissioner must let people know when their privacy has been improperly
invaded. In the past no such disclosure was made.

Baroness Blatch also succeeded in a groundbreaking motion requiring the
government to report to Parliament the extent of overseas access to
personal information stored by communications providers. Such access is
widespread, and available to many developed and developing countries.

However, despite these successes, Privacy International commented: “A
government ignoring adverse findings from the Parliament’s own Human
Rights watchdog is something we would have expected from a Banana
Republic. This is a shameful episode”.

(Contribution by Ian Brown, FIPR)