Last year the ECJ stuck down the UK’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) which allowed the government to store communications metadata. This was because the government could access these records without a warrant or even the subject knowing, which is problematic because this means it is impossible to know whether you are being surveilled or not which creates a constant fear that it is going on and therefore creating a breach of your right to privacy.
Fast forwarding to today, Theresa May has announced her Investigatory Powers Bill (IPB) which, yes, allows for more transparency, but essentially just legitimises the excessive and wide-sweeping surveillance already being carried out whilst also increasing the scope and power that the government has over your online activity and yet still causing the same problem as RIPA (and DRIP for that matter).
There are ton of things wrong with this bill, but I would like to address 3 in particular.
1) Your ISP (e.g. Virgin, Sky etc.) will be legally compelled to store every domain (website) that you visit for 12 months. To many people this isn’t a big deal. Who cares about the websites you’ve visited. Well, to quote Frankie Boyle, this isn’t just browsing history, “it’s a document that shows what we’re thinking about.” and that is not something the government should be able to access, least of all without judiciary approval.
2) Companies will be required to weaken their encryption so that if the government want to access their data, they can. Currently apps like WhatsApp and iMessage provide what is called end-to-end encryption (E2EE), which means that if the message is intercepted by anyone (including the company providing the service) it cannot be read, only the sender and recipient can read the data. This seems like a fair trade, in an ideal world, the government gets a warrant for data, then goes to the provider and gets it; but if we remove E2EE it is not only the government that will be able to access the data. Hackers will have a much easier job of stealing information about us like bank details and other more intimate things. I’d imagine we will quite quickly start to see more and more cases similar to what happened to Talk Talk only a couple of weeks ago.
3) The government have granted themselves what is being called a “licence to hack”. At a moments notice, once again without judiciary approval (notice the theme here), GCHQ and other agencies and departments within government can turn on your laptop or phone’s, camera, microphone etc. and start recording data. They will also be able to access your entire hard drive, messages, emails and so on. So if the other two points weren’t enough to convince you that this bill is extremely excessive, maybe this is?
I’ll finish on this, Theresa May (who you might of gathered I vehemently loathe) along with David Cameron and other senior politicians from both sides of government have defended this bill with the same rhetoric as they have used for all invasions of our privacy, “but if we don’t have these powers, how will we stop all the paedophiles, and terrorists”. They are playing you! They know nobody wants people like that in our society, so they tell us these powers are absolutely necessary to stop them. They only talk about these people to scare you into throwing away your civil liberties. Even Edward Snowden has came forward on numerous occasions to explain how surveillance doesn’t prevent terrorism, “because they’re not public safety programs. They’re spying programs.” [http://dailycaller.com/…/edward-snowden-says-mass-surveill…/]
Do not accept this bill! They tell us without security you can’t enjoy freedom, but without freedom what’s the point in security?