UK Surveillance Law

If you live in the UK, or you travel there often, you may need to pay close attention to a new law that’s just been passed in the UK. This new bill gives intelligence some of the most invasive access into your internet browsing history.

The Investigatory Powers Act was passed last week (but still awaiting Royal Assent) it grants access to hacking tools and other surveillance  methods for governmental agencies. These are the most lack laws in all of Europe and even goes a step past what the US government allows. One of the most worrying aspects of this whole story is that there wasn’t really a large outcry about this. Perhaps it’s the confusion into what it means or it’s just general apathy towards the government post Brexit limbo. Either way this new law is indeed a worrying trend.

We even have privacy advocate and whistleblower Edward Snowden speaking out

The new law allows police, MI5, MI6 & GCHQ to use the tools they’ve been using all along without seeking permission. In October there was a ruling that these bodies were collecting data without permission for the last 17 years.

Human rights affected?

One comment from Harriet Harman does bring a cautionary note, stating that there needs to be safeguards to prevent abuse.

The Bill provides a clear and transparent basis for powers already in use by the security and intelligence services, but there need to be further safeguards. Protection for MP communications from unjustified interference is vital, as it is for confidential communications between lawyers and clients, and for journalists’ sources, the Bill must provide tougher safeguards to ensure that the Government cannot abuse its powers to undermine Parliament’s ability to hold the Government to account.

~ The Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Harriet Harman

What this law means

Your full browser history is now available to 48 UK governmental agencies including:

  1. Metropolitan Police Service
  2. City of London Police
  3. Police forces maintained under section 2 of the Police Act 1996
  4. Police Service of Scotland
  5. Police Service of Northern Ireland
  6. British Transport Police
  7. Ministry of Defence Police
  8. Royal Navy Police
  9. Royal Military Police
  10. Royal Air Force Police
  11. Security Service
  12. Secret Intelligence Service
  13. GCHQ
  14. Ministry of Defence
  15. Department of Health
  16. Home Office
  17. Ministry of Justice
  18. National Crime Agency
  19. HM Revenue & Customs
  20. Department for Transport
  21. Department for Work and Pensions
  22. NHS trusts and foundation trusts in England that provide ambulance services
  23. Common Services Agency for the Scottish Health Service
  24. Competition and Markets Authority
  25. Criminal Cases Review Commission
  26. Department for Communities in Northern Ireland
  27. Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland
  28. Department of Justice in Northern Ireland
  29. Financial Conduct Authority
  30. Fire and rescue authorities under the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004
  31. Food Standards Agency
  32. Food Standards Scotland
  33. Gambling Commission
  34. Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority
  35. Health and Safety Executive
  36. Independent Police Complaints Commissioner
  37. Information Commissioner
  38. NHS Business Services Authority
  39. Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Health and Social Care Trust
  40. Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Board
  41. Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Regional Business Services Organisation
  42. Office of Communications
  43. Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland
  44. Police Investigations and Review Commissioner
  45. Scottish Ambulance Service Board
  46. Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission
  47. Serious Fraud Office
  48. Welsh Ambulance Services National Health Service Trust

These records are to be stored by your ISP for up to 1 year and a viewable by employees of certain grades at each of these offices. For example for police officers you need to have the grade of inspector or superintendent or higher. We estimate that there are over 8,000 of police officers at this level or higher in England and Wales alone [source]. It’s hard to calculate just how many UK officials will be able to access your private browsing history, but it does seem that it is quite a worryingly high number.

Hide your internet traffic with a VPN

In case you don’t know it already, one way you can protect yourself from people seeing your internet traffic is by using a VPN. We’ve put a list together of over 100 VPN providers.

We are strong proponents of the right to privacy online. We fear that this law gives too many people access to your private information. We urge you to read more about this law.

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