U.K. Faces Tech Firm 'Exodus' if Snooper' s Charter Is Passed

Eris Industries has relocated, at least temporarily. If the controversial Snoopers' Charter becomes law, other U.K.-based tech firms could follow.

tech company exodus

By Steve McCaskill

The United Kingdom could face an exodus of technology companies if the controversial Snooper's Charter becomes legislation, according to cryptography specialist Eris Industries, which has temporarily moved its headquarters from Britain to the United States.

Previous attempts to introduce the charter had been thwarted by the Conservatives' former Liberal Democrat coalition partners, but now emboldened by the party's victory at the 2015 General Election last month, in which it won a majority, Home Secretary Theresa May has put the bill firmly back on the agenda.

Snooper's Charter revival

Outlined in last week's Queen's Speech, the new Investigatory Powers Bill will include not only the previously blocked snooper's charter, which allows the tracking of people's Web and social media use, but also includes measures that will strengthen the ability of the security service for the bulk interception (via search warrants) of the content of communications.

The proposals prompted Eris Industries to relocate for the time being and says the move will become permanent if the bill is passed into law.

"Eris Industries' business is industrial cryptography. This legislation, if passed, is likely to prevent our technology's use in myriad industrial applications, including financial services, which need reliable, open-source cryptography desperately if they are to stay competitive in a digital age," said COO Preston Byrne.

Permanent relocation

"The fact is, however, that cryptography overwhelmingly protects legal businesses and ordinary people, not criminals and terrorists, from harm. Strong cryptography should therefore remain entirely free and legal. If this bill is passed into law, we are likely to see a mass exodus of tech companies and financial services firms alike from the United Kingdom. We are happy to lead by example."

Eris Industries does not expect there to be any interruption to its services and would continue to do businesses with U.K. firms and U.K. branches of multi-national organizations.

"From our new base in the United States which will be either temporary or permanent pending the outcome of the bill, we will continue to build useful, open source, and free-of-charge developer tools to enable a more secure, more efficient, and freer world. Attempting to curtail progress and free expression in the manner the U.K. government proposes to do is a struggle it is certain to lose."