The U.K. surveillance bill known as the “Snooper’s charter” is set to become law after passing both houses of Parliament this week. It only needs to be approved by Royal Assent, which is expected to happen by the end of 2016.
The Investigatory Powers (IP) Bill is, as transparency advocates describe it, the most extreme surveillance law ever passed by a democracy. Approved amid the chaos of the post-Brexit independence vote and President-elect Donald Trump’s historical win, the Snooper’s charter bill has ripples that can far out reach most borders.
Jamie Killock, executive director of the civil liberties organization Open Rights Group, said Thursday, “The passing of the IP Bill will have an impact that goes beyond the U.K.’s shores. It is likely that other countries, including authoritarian regimes with poor human rights records, will use this law to justify their own intrusive surveillance powers.”
Open Rights Group summarized the bill’s most pertinent provisions:
- Internet Service Providers could be obliged to store their customers’ web browsing history for a year. The police and government departments will have unprecedented powers to access this data through a search engine that could be used for profiling. It means more government.
- The security services will continue to have powers to collect communications data in bulk and analyze those that can be a threat to the main agenda.
“The U.K. has just legalized the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes farther than many autocracies.” and security services will have new hacking powers, where your computer can be taken over remotely.
The security services can access and analyze public and private databases, even though the majority of data will be held about people who are not suspected of any crimes. They will be able to readily profile suspects.
The bill codifies the statutes revealed in 2013 by National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, “as well as increasing surveillance by the police and other government departments,” Killock continued. “There will continue to be a lack of privacy protections for international data sharing arrangements with the U.S. Parliament has also failed to address the implications of the technical integration of GCHQ [the U.K.’s Government Communications Headquarters] and the NSA.”
The United Nations privacy chief Joseph Cannataci previously called the bill “worse than scary,” saying at an Internet Governance Forum panel in Brazil last week, “It is the golden age of surveillance, [governments have] never had so much data. I am just talking about metadata, I haven’t got down to content.”
“Mass surveillance is alive and well but governments are finding ways of making that the law of the land,” Cannataci said. He also criticized the U.K. media and pro-surveillance members of parliament for what he called “an offensive” to distort the debate and push new powers into law.