Watch your backdoor

Author: James Kinsella
02 December 2016 15:51:28

‘Snooper’s Charter’ becomes UK law

In a shocking setback for Data Protection, the British Parliament recently adopted one of the most aggressive data surveillance laws in the West. Picture courtesy of 'Your', featured on 'Snoopers Charter To Ban WhatsApp And Snapchat In UK', accessible at

The Investigatory Powers Act, known as the “Snooper’s Charter,” is meant to give law enforcement the tools it needs to keep us safe. The new rule does much, much more than that. Telecoms and internet data on everyone in the UK will be required to be stored for up to 12 months, and can be accessed by the authorities.

In some ways even more unsettling: communications service providers in Britain will have to submit to law enforcement demands to hand over encryption keys or open “backdoors” to applications’ stored data.

The law has been compared to the US Freedoms Act, long derided as giving the Americans a data surveillance right unparalleled by any other Western government.

Now the Brits have upped the ante.

Even the Americans stopped short of some of the more aggressive aspects of the Investigatory Powers Act. Last spring, two US senators attempted to push through a measure in the American Congress that would force tech companies to provide encryption keys and backdoors to access users’ data. Dubbed “The Crypto Backdoor,” it was defeated largely because of strong opposition led by US software giants.

Where was the British tech industry when this UK proposal first made it to Parliament? Almost completely absent. And I am included in that crowd. I was stupidly silent, in large part because I thought the idea was so radical it wouldn’t make it past a full Parliamentary vote.

I just attended a Brussels conference on data protection; data sovereignty was hardly mentioned. And yet, if we needed more evidence that we have moved beyond the era of Data Protection and are now deep into the terrain of Data Sovereignty, the Investigative Powers Act provides it.



James Kinsella is the founder of Zettabox, a European-based cloud-sharing platform, launched to address data protection and sovereignty issues for enterprises faced with the responsibility to comply with new EU regulations. A long-time tech entrepreneur, James is a proud citizen of both the US and Great Britain. Reach him on Twitter @jimkzettabox or at