In late November Britain's Investigatory Powers Act 2016 became law. For many years the British government demanded information from telecommunications companies without legal basis.
Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May admitted the British government has long abused section 94 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 for this exact purpose.
The legal basis now exists but this law goes even further.
Technology companies now must inform the government of new products or services. Sounds innocuous enough, right?
Technical Capability Notices (Clause 217 of the Bill) allow the government to impose requirements and obligations on technology companies. Those requirements include hacking and decrypting your data, building back doors into encryption software. The obligations include retaining your hacked data for one year.
Telecommunications companies must keep all internet connection records whenever the state demands. They must provide back doors to security and encryption software so all online activities of mere citizens may be intercepted, decrypted and monitored.
In other words the government can access the history of websites you visit, email you send and receive, your instant messages and personal information and read it all. Your right to privacy no longer exists.
The trumpeted need for this intrusion is, of course, counter-terrorism.
It's for your safety, your protection. There is no oversight. Oversight is not required. No government would ever abuse such vast powers to invade your privacy, right?
With their claim that this intrusion of privacy is to better protect us, Brits must give up their privacy with a lame assurance of security.
This embodies Benjamin Franklin's famous words.
"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
Open Rights Group executive director Jim Killock said this:
"[Home Secretary] Amber Rudd says the Investigatory Powers Act is world-leading legislation. She is right; it is one of the most extreme surveillance laws ever passed in a democracy. Its impact will be felt beyond the UK as other countries, including authoritarian regimes with poor human rights records, will use this law to justify their own intrusive surveillance regimes.
Although there are some improvements to oversight, the Bill will mean the police and intelligence agencies have unprecedented powers to surveil our private communications and Internet activity, whether or not we are suspected of a crime. Theresa May has finally got her snoopers' charter and democracy in the UK is the worse for it."
Governments the world over love Big Data. Despots want to control it. Democracies claim to protect us with it. Nobody, other than mere citizens, are concerned with the lack of oversight or accountability in legislation like this.
The length and breadth of who may demand your internet history is frightening. This list is from Schedule 4 of the Act.
- Metropolitan police force
- City of London police force
- Police forces maintained under section 2 of the Police Act 1996
- Police Service of Scotland
- Police Service of Northern Ireland
- British Transport Police
- Ministry of Defence Police
- Royal Navy Police
- Royal Military Police
- Royal Air Force Police
- Security Service
- Secret Intelligence Service
- Ministry of Defence
- Department of Health
- Home Office
- Ministry of Justice
- National Crime Agency
- HM Revenue & Customs
- Department for Transport
- Department for Work and Pensions
- NHS trusts and foundation trusts in England that provide ambulance services
- Common Services Agency for the Scottish Health Service
- Competition and Markets Authority
- Criminal Cases Review Commission
- Department for Communities in Northern Ireland
- Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland
- Department of Justice in Northern Ireland
- Financial Conduct Authority
- Fire and rescue authorities under the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004
- Food Standards Agency
- Food Standards Scotland
- Gambling Commission
- Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority
- Health and Safety Executive
- Independent Police Complaints Commissioner
- Information Commissioner
- NHS Business Services Authority
- Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Health and Social Care Trust
- Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Board
- Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Regional Business Services Organisation
- Office of Communications
- Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland
- Police Investigations and Review Commissioner
- Scottish Ambulance Service Board
- Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission
- Serious Fraud Office
- Welsh Ambulance Services National Health Service Trust