Investigatory Powers Bill

Scottish PEN calls for greater protections of privacy and freedom of expression inside the Snooper’s Charter.

To find out more about this campaign or see how you can take part, please contact Nik Williams at

This bill was introduced in 2015 by then-Home Secretary, Theresa May to modernise and consolidate surveillance legislation in the UK. Scottish PEN has been highly critical of the bill from day one and core concerns remain as to its impact on our fundamental freedoms including free expression and the right to privacy.

The bill’s powers include:

  • Internet Connection Records (ICRs) – the retention of ICRs of every British citizen for 12 months by Internet Service Providers that can be accessed without a warrant by a range of public authorities. ICRs are a record of every website we visit and every smart phone app we access – they contain the source URL of every site visited i.e. not
  • Equipment Interference (EI) – Government hacking that enables the intelligence services to access a device, system or network to obtain encrypted files, passwords and data; remotely control devices; gain access to further networks & devices; and potentially destroy devices.
  • National Security and Technical Capability Notices – The method by which the Government will impose “requirements” and obligations on tech companies, to ensure that they can carry out equipment interference, interception and mass data retention on the Government’s behalf.
  • Bulk Powers – for Interception and Equipment Interference powers, bulk powers enable the state to intercept data and hack devices, systems and networks internationally en mass when the target is unknown and necessity and proportionality cannot be clearly determined. If data of UK citizens is collected or accessed through EI, a warrant is required.
  • Bulk Personal Datasets – These are databases and registers that contain information on a large group of people. These will be accessed, held and used by the intelligence agencies to make connections about who we are, what we do and who we know. These may include the electoral roll, HMRC tax returns and sporting events ticket lists.

Scottish PEN submitted written evidence to Parliament, read below:

We are campaigning for increased public involvement in this bill and calling for the bill to be brought in line with human rights protections before the bill is made law by the end of 2016.

Op-Eds & Articles

Latest news and writing from Investigatory Powers Bill

Wigtown Book Festival: Big Brother’s Bookcase

Whether the fictional dystopias of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World or George Orwell’s landmark 1984, or the imagined lives of those under the state’s gaze as seen in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale or Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, surveillance has been well-represented in modern literature. But in the Wigtown Book Festival marquee on the 24th September Scottish PEN are going to explore how closely […]

September 9, 2016

The Investigatory Powers Bill: We Deserve Better

While the government made a number of concessions to strengthen privacy protections, Scottish PEN does not believe these reforms go far enough to fully protect free expression and privacy.

June 8, 2016

Scottish PEN Statement on Key SNP Amendments to Investigatory Powers Bill

The parties in opposition including both SNP and Labour are facing an uphill battle to suggest amendments that offer substantial and robust civil liberties protections as part of the Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Bill). While this process has been severely hindered by the curtailed timetable given to analyse and scrutinise the bill, a number of the […]

April 13, 2016

Investigatory Powers Bill – Written Evidence

House of Commons Public Bill Committee – Investigatory Powers Bill We are making this statement in the capacity of Scottish PEN, the Scottish centre of the world association of writers, PEN International. It is a charitable body for the advancement of the education of the public by the following means: i) The encouragement and promotion […]

March 23, 2016