The Investigatory Powers Bill, dubbed by its critics as the “Snoopers’ Charter”, has now been passed by both Houses of Parliament. The only thing left for it to become law is to receive the Royal Assent, a mere typicality. The bill will most likely come into effect before the end of 2016 as it will concise with the government’s current plans along with the continuous justification of the old laws surrounding surveillance that will soon reach their expiration date.
About a month ago, the British government admitted to the fact that it had been spying on its people from 1998 to 2015. The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the UK’s surveillance agency, was acting against Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights without the approval of the Parliament. Importantly, there were plenty of opportunities to legalize the program that never came into fruition. Edward Snowden, whom everyone should be familiar with by now, first revealed the depth of the program which has since been confirmed by several entities. The secret surveillance capabilities of the program went into tapping internet cables, recording location records and call data from every cell phone in Great Britain, and building a significant database of communications information.
The new bill was originally introduced in 2012 by then-Home Secretary Theresa May but the first draft was heavily criticized and sent back to the drawing boards. Notably, the bill was never actually dead and the revisions that it has gone through thus far are certainly not substantial enough to warrant a 4-year waiting period. The bill that has been passed by the Parliament will give the government the most powerful spying powers in any democracy, according to Jim Killock, the Open Rights Group director.
Once Snoopers’ Charter becomes law, the UK government will force internet providers to keep records of every user’s internet history data for a full year. The data will be fully accessible by both intelligence services and police forces whenever it is deemed necessary. In addition to that, security services will be able to legally hack into all kind of electronic devices and telecommunications services including computers, servers, mobile devices, and virtually everything else you could think of. All in all, the government will have access to a massive amount of data that will clearly detail every aspect of one’s digital lives.
On the other side of the pond, more documents detailing the involvement of the NSA in massive surveillance continue to be brought into the public eye. The famous Long Lines Building in New York, which has been the subject of many a conspiracy theory, has just been revealed to be a central monitoring hub for the NSA. AT&T, the owners of the building, were apparently in full cooperation with the surveillance agency too.
With networking technology becoming increasingly more integrated into our daily lives, Snoopers’ Charter and similar bills are more troublesome than ever. Using national security and anti-terrorism as justification for infringing on the basic human right of privacy is a tricky road and the citizens of every developed country, particularly in the UK and US, should certainly keep their eyes peeled and their ears to the ground because their governments will definitely do the same for them.