The UK has recently passed a bill that gives the government more surveillance power than any other. The bill is called the ‘Investigatory Powers Bill,’ and it gained little opposition amidst the recent Brexit movement.
You might say that the bill passed because of the distraction that Brexit caused. While some opposition did exist, it was largely unheard and unseen due to the chaos that occurred after the UK exited. Why is this bill causing so much controversy? Here are some of the reasons why UK citizens are worried today.
Ultimate Government Power
The new bill gives the UK government almost complete surveillance power over individuals, companies, and anyone or anything else residing in the UK. While this might not come as a terrible shock, the fact that the government no longer has to notify or warn people of surveillance should be cause for serious reaction.
The UK government will also keep a record of every website that every UK citizen visits for up to one year. Additionally, every app downloaded and used will be recorded. Call metadata will also be recorded. While the government won’t keep track of the exact URLs someone visits, they will keep track of websites visited (so, for example, they will see that you visited this site if you live in the UK, but they might not know what pages you saw while you were here).
A Major Game Changer
The fact that the UK can use government spies to see what citizens are up to is a big deal worldwide. This means that other governments may try and follow the same course. Most UK citizens did not even realize that this bill was being passed, which makes it an even bigger deal. Every Internet Service Provider (ISP) in the UK will have to store all of the data from users. Everything from phone logs to sites visited will be stored.
The UK Government will have access to this data at any time. Again, no notice or warning is required. The UK government will pay ISPs to store this data, and UK police can access the data in a massive database called the ‘Request Filter.’ The government is not divulging any real information about how this database will work, but it’s a scary thought on its own.
Is this new move by the UK government a violation of citizen rights? Maybe not. Considering that the bill was passed without much protest, it’s hard to argue that the bill is a violation of individual or citizen rights. Whether or not it is a scary thought is another thing altogether - it’s always intimidating to think that the government can openly spy on you. Some might argue that other governments already openly spy, but that is pure speculation.
The UK is openly stating that they are spying, will continue to do so, and citizens can do very little about the whole thing. Of course with this kind of bill there are ways around it (as is always the case). People can use a search like Tor, which would bounce some data around, and it is possible to hide phone calls and other information including location details.
However, most citizens will not go to this extent. Now that the UK bill is big news, though, it’s unlikely that other governments will be able to pass a similar bill without public knowledge and protest.