The U.K. has officially signed into effect the Investigatory Powers bill, which not only allows the government’s already set practices to become legal, but also keeping a record of every website that U.K. citizens visit for up to a year. The Queen signed off on the bill November 29th, thus putting it into effect right away. The bill will also record what apps are visited and what communications are sent by phone.
The bill comes into play after whistleblowers exposed mass surveillance by the government. One such whistleblower, Edward Snowden has said the bill is “the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy.” Among other things, the bill stands out because a poll done by Liberty, a civil rights organization, has shown that 72% of participants had no idea the bill even existed. A separate investigation showed that only 12% believed that the government rightfully explained the bill’s purpose.
Many are saying that this new bill totally ends online privacy in the U.K. The records kept will show all of your metadata such as what sites you visit, who you have contacted, what time, as well as how long the communication or website and app visits lasted. Internet and phone providers were mandated to keep these records since the bill went into effect; and must hand them over to authorities once given notice to do so. A list of 48 public entities was made up of those capable of accessing such data; including Metropolitan police, Department of Justice, as well as the Department for Work and Pensions.
The bill also set new rules on who is allowed to remotely access computers and phones, as well as who can intercept messages. It also has forced tech companies to comply with government demands when it comes to hacking into any device it sees fit. The bill is said to be a means of combating terrorism with the U.K., but instead of just watching known suspects the bill encompasses every person living in the U.K.
Liberal Democrat Lord Strasburger stated:
We do have to worry about a U.K. Donald Trump. If we do end up with one, and that is not impossible, we have created the tools for repression.
He also stated that he hasn’t seen any evidence of mass surveillance being a necessity and also stated that the bill is “worse than scary.”
Many have brought forth their concerns about security saying that data is either secured from hackers or not. The bill essentially creates backdoors into devices in order to gather the metadata of U.K citizens; which in turn makes them vulnerable to hacking attacks.
While this bill immediately became law, many people are still fighting to have it removed. Don’t Spy on Us, a group of online privacy advocates started a petition to repeal the bill and is gaining strong support very quickly.