Understanding the Snooper's Charter: Theresa May's effort to abolish privacy

Presented at 33C3 (2016), Dec. 30, 2016, 2:30 p.m. (30 minutes)

The ‚Investigative Powers Bill‘ is about to become law in the UK. Its provisions, from looking up Internet connection records without a warrant to forcing communication service providers to assist with interception and decryption of data, have caused an outcry in the Western world. But how and why did British politics get here? And, most importantly of all: How could we fight back?

Roughly a year ago then home secretary Theresa May presented the ‚Investigative Powers Bill‘ or the so-called Snooper’s Charter. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies will enjoy new powers like bulk hacking while having reinforced their existing rights of mass surveillance. At the same time, a proper form of oversight is all but missing. Other countries such as China have even defended their own terrorism bills pointing at this very piece of legislation.

Amid loud privacy and civil right concerns, the Bill has already passed the House of Commons where only 5 % of casted votes opposed it.

But, does this reflect the will of the electorate? Is this the lesson from the Snowden revelations that we are going to see more not less infringements on civil rights?

The talk will also answer the question how the bill’s provisions compare to other initiatives like the new BND law in Germany or the Patriot Act in the USA.


  • Hendrik Obelöer
    I’m fascinated by the interplay of technology and society. Motivated by my interest to understand larger trends and powers in our society, I chose to study European Social and Political Studies at UCL in London. Just starting to realise the ubiquitous nature of British surveillance, the Snowden revelations had a strong impression on me. Subsequently, I followed closely and was very happy about the opportunity to do an internship at netzpolitik.org during this summer. Besides finishing my Bachelor’s degree, I report about current developments in British civil rights issues. I grew up in Lübeck and during my time in High School I participated in and chaired at several international student conferences. Not only did this create an interest in international politics, but also made me want to engage in shaping future discussions. Studying in London and Rome gave me the opportunity to understand different takes on civil liberties and duties – and it also reinforced my view that we need to take an active stand to defend them. Striving to understand problems at their fundamental level and on a large scale, I am still convinced that change can also happen on a small scale. I did this for example as an elected student representative in School and University. Likewise, I took an active stand on many political topics and tried to advocate for a more just, free and inclusive society. At some point I wanted to discuss these views and be likewise challenged on them. That is why I started writing for Eureka, a student magazine about European issues, and later even lead it magazine as editor.


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