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

Wigtown Book Festival celebrates the power of the written word but Scottish PEN is deeply concerned about how unwarranted and suspicionless surveillance can undermine the ability of novelists, poets and playwrights to express themselves free from coercion or duress.

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 SNP’s amendment to ensure that meaningful judicial oversight extends to Scotland, instead of the ministerial mechanism currently in place, is a vital amendment that Scottish organisations, commentators and policy-makers should get behind.

April 13, 2016

Investigatory Powers Bill – Written Evidence

As an organisation charged with representing writers to ensure the fundamental freedoms to write, read and share thoughts, there are a number of aspects of the Investigatory Powers Bill that could threaten these freedoms were they to be made into law.

March 23, 2016