Science

Investigatory powers: the end of internet privacy?

Within weeks the bill which keeps many a liberal up at night in worry will be enshrined within British Law, following it successfully passing through the House of Lords recently.  What we’re talking about is the Investigatory Powers Bill, or as it has been affectionately dubbed, the ‘Snooper’s Charter Two’.

This controversial bill will allow the UK Government to force all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to store the internet usage data of all UK citizens.  That will mean that deleting your browser history will no longer be the end of it.  Furthermore, the Government will have the legal right to force electronics companies to hack into or break devices they have sold to consumers, on the Government’s behalf in order for these devices to be spied upon by the security services.  This has spurned a massive backlash from the technology industry, with companies such as Apple and Twitter standing in staunch opposition to the bill.

However, despite the backlash from technology companies and senior parliamentary committees, the bill in fact passed through parliament with little to no opposition.  The only major amendment which has been made to the Investigatory Powers Bill is that which prevents MPs devices being hacked, and thus

their online actions being scrutinized by the security services.

As companies will now have to construct devices which are less secure in order to allow the security services to listen in, there

are also growing concerns that citizens’ internet information may get into the hands of individuals who are not affiliated with the British Government, especially considering the huge scale TalkTalk hack in earlier 2015.

This may result in theft and leakage of personal information of UK citizens. Although, it would be grossly unfair to place the blame for the passing of this immensely concerning bill solely at the door of the Conservative party.  Unsurprisingly, the Conservatives voted overall in favour of enshrining the Investigative Powers Bill in law.  On the other hand, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and the Scottish National Party all unanimously opposed the motion to pass the bill in its current state.   However, despite the Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott describing the bill as ‘draconian’, Labour surprisingly voted heavily in favour of supporting the bill.  Jeremy Corbyn himself, who has quite a reputation by now for his far-left libertarian politics, abstained from voting on the bill.  I suppose all that is left for us all to do is practice that old mantra: ‘Big Brother is watching you.’

Edward Snowden noted the risk of mass surveillance is that a new leader might “say that ‘because of the crisis, because of the dangers we face in the world, some new and unpredicted threat, we need more authority, we need more power.’ And there will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it.”

08/12/2016

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