Preeing Your History: The Snoopers’ Charter
Dubbed as the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy, the Investigatory Powers Bill (Snoopers’ Charter) has passed into law with barely a raised voice from the opposition. Barker investigates what it means for your internet usage.
Whilst we were all busy hating on Trump and imagining the infinite number of ways he can mess up America, the UK passed a new law giving intelligence agencies and police access to hack into computer and phones to collect large amounts of communication data, from call logs to text messages despite over 130,000 signatures on a petition calling for its repeal. The bill was first introduced in November 2015 when then-Home Secretary Theresa May proposed it. This new law (known as the Snoopers’ Charter) requires web and phone companies to store web browsing history of their customers for 12 months and gives full unprecedented access to police, security services and official agencies. These sort of extreme powers are unmatched by any other country in western Europe or even in the US. Everything will be stored, your internet service provider will keep the who, what, where and when. Certain authorities will see you visited this site on this day, to read this article, at this time and from this device you’re using.
‘This Government is clear that, at a time of heightened security threat, it is essential our law enforcement, security and intelligence services have the powers they need to keep people safe’
31st December marked the end of the current Data Retention And IP Act, which means web and phone companies must begin to collect customers’ communication data although some of the provision in the act will require extensive testing before they come into effect. The bill was officially announced in 2015 and passed through the House of Lords late last year. Home Secretary Amber Rudd, MP was quoted as saying, ‘This Government is clear that, at a time of heightened security threat, it is essential our law enforcement, security and intelligence services have the powers they need to keep people safe’. This kinda makes sense, I understand that they think having these new powers will help prevent terrorism and being one step ahead when it comes to organised crime and what not, but do 48 official bodies (listed below) really need the power to track me via this bill?
This is a list of public authorities (including the Police, Military, Food Standards Agency and Department of Justice) that can access internet connection records:
The Food Standards Agency? Really?
Why do all of these people need access to my personal information and internet history? Sure, I’ve made some disgustingly greasy meals that I found recipes for on the web but nothing that warrants the level of access these authorities have. Executive Director of Open Rights Group, Jim Killock, said, ‘The UK now has a surveillance law that is more suited to a dictatorship than a democracy. The state has unprecedented powers to monitor and analyse UK citizens’ communications regardless of whether we are suspected of any criminal activity’.
Now, this is where the argument if you have nothing to hide then you’re fine… comes into play. It’s a ridiculous argument. If that’s the case, then post your email and password for your Facebook right now in the comments.
You have nothing to hide, right?
So why do I want 48 different government bodies having this kind of power to go snooping through my computer and phone whenever they feel like it? Let’s say you’re doing a cheeky torrent (everyone has at one point) of some 20-year-old music that you can’t even find on iTunes, that will be recorded down in a data base for authorities to pull out at any time and could lead you to a criminal record. This is also means everyone is being treated as a potentially subject of criminality. It’s like holding everyone in jail in case they commit a crime so you can quickly ship them off to prison, ridiculous. Buuuuuut, there are ways around it, like using a VPN which is a method used to add security and privacy to private and public networks, like WiFi Hotspots and the Internet. VPNs are most often used by corporations to protect sensitive data (how ironic).
‘The state has unprecedented powers to monitor and analyse UK citizens’ communications regardless of whether we are suspected of any criminal activity’.
Thankfully, the European Court of Justice has ruled the Snoopers’ Charter unlawful thanks to MPs David Davis and Tom Watson who bought a case to them challenging it. The court said electronic communications allow ‘very precise conclusions to be drawn concerning the private lives of persons whose data has been retained’.
Although this may seem like a win in the eyes of the opposition, Davis, Brexit secretary, is currently negotiating the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The irony is lost on him. This means that if the UK breaks away from the EU like intended, the European Court of Justice would have no power over Britain and we are unsure whether or not the ruling would have any impact on UK law. Our only option is to wait with our fingers crossed and see what happens.
And to end, a brilliant quote from the legend himself Frankie Boyle: ‘One misspelled google search for “bong-making” and you’ll be in an orange jumpsuit.’