An internet surveillance bill that requires telecom companies to keep customer’s browsing histories for at least a year has now become a law.
On Tuesday, the House of Commons Speaker John Bercow announced to lawmakers that the Investigatory Powers Bill had received royal assent. The bill had already been passed by Parliament earlier this month.
So who will have access to the database of Britain’s online activity? Pretty much any government official. Specifically, police, intelligence services, and government departments, including revenue, customs and even Food Standard Agency officials can get access.
The bill, which took a year to pass due to the number of arguments and amendments, has been condemned by civil liberties groups for breaching UK citizens’ privacy.
The database will keep a record of what websites the telecoms company customers have visited and the apps they used. Individual pages they visited or the messages sent won’t be recorded.
The Home Office defended the law, saying it gives officials the information they need to track down terrorists and that there are “strong privacy protections” in the bill.
Jim Killock, executive director of the digital freedom organization the Open Rights Group, said the bill was “one of the most extreme surveillance laws ever passed in a democracy.”
Not only does the law breach citizen’s privacy, the database is vulnerable to leaks and hackers.
This is particularly wearisome to internet service providers.
The Home Office has responded that the new law “will require extensive testing and will not be in place for some time” and “will be subject to detailed consultation with industry and operational partners.”
It’s not surprising that an extreme surveillance law like this has passed in the UK.
“The UK is being watched by a network of 1.85m CCTV cameras, the vast majority of which are run by private companies, according to the only large-scale audit of surveillance cameras ever conducted,” writes The Guardian. “The majority of these were inside premises, rather than facing the street, and only a relatively small number of Cheshire’s cameras – 504 – were run by public authorities.”
Mass surveillance has only continued to expand since the London bombings and it looks like it will only increase since most citizens aren’t aware of how their every move is being watched.
“I got involved with the programme because I wanted to raise people’s awareness about the information footprints they build for themselves. Whatsapp, Instagram, emails, mobile phones, absolutely everything we use all the time. What people are doing is creating an information footprint that they then don’t, I believe, take sufficient care of to protect themselves,” said Brett Lovegrove, the former City of London counter terrorism chief who now leads up counter terrorism and surveillance companies, to Telegraph.co.uk.
“Society should be now more involved in understanding what the state can do and be more invested in this than it is. I don’t want people to wake up in five years and say ‘Blooming hell, this is a monster’, but to play a part in shaping it.”
Hasn’t the British government gone too far with their surveillance? It isn’t going to be easy for citizens to get their privacy back.
Editor’s note: This is scary. Need to read Orwell’s ‘1984’ again.