The legislation that allows the British government to snoop on you is now law despite public opposition. The new law requires telcos and ISPs to store your call and web history for 12 months and it goes further than that. It is also now required of those companies give police and security institutions unfettered access to that data whenever they request it. That’s not all, security agencies including the police can now hack into computers and phones at any time including those of journalist although they have to get a judge sign off on that and we all know how that has turned out in the US over the years leading to Edward Snowden’s revelations.
While the government says some parts of the law would need some testing before they are enforced, it says data collection by telecom companies and ISPs will begin before the year ends.
The home secretary Amber Rudd meanwhile hailed the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 calling it a world-leading legislation. According to British paper Guardian, she said “The government is clear that, at a time of heightened security threat, it is essential our law enforcement and security and intelligence services have the power they need to keep people safe. The internet presents new opportunities for terrorists and we must ensure we have the capabilities to confront this challenge. But it is also right that these powers are subject to strict safeguards and rigorous oversight.”
Others disagree though, Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, responded to the home secretary’s “world-leading” claim, saying: “She is right, it is one of the most extreme surveillance laws ever passed in a democracy. The IP Act will have an impact that goes beyond the UK’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.”
Britain is always at the forefront of human right campaign including privacy. You’ll recall that a judge had ordered Facebook to stop collecting the data of WhatsApp users in the country on grounds of privacy for now. It’s the same country that now allows state agencies to do just that by forcing private companies to do just that. The new law is not different from what was being done in the United States before now where companies were mandated to provide records to government agencies such as the FBI after a secret court had given them a warrant.
But leading up to 2016, tech companies began to revolt with WhatsApp being the most prominent of them all. WhatsApp announced an end-to-end encryption for its over 1 billion users in April and not only did they do that, they turned the feature in by default for everyone. This means that you data is encrypted from the time you send a message to the time it hits WhatsApp servers and then delivers on your partner’s device. This has put the Facebook owned company in trouble with government authorities like in Brazil and Iran.
Facebook and Google have both built this into their messenger apps in order to restore the confidence of its users who feel their data is given to the government at any time without them even knowing. Apple’s device was eventually unlocked after a long fight with the FBI. The FBI had retrieved the phone (iPhone 5c) of suspect who they say was involved in the San Bernardino attack that claimed lives and then they asked Apple to unlick the device to aid their investigation. Apple refused and the FBI hired an expert who eventually unlocked. The FBI claimed though that they might not have been able to break into the newer iPhones and Apple has reportedly fortified their devices the more.
Lastly, this again brings to life that never ending debate about privacy vs. national security. There has been numerous terrorist attacks across the west in 2016 alone. Many of those attackers were recruited electronically (social media or phone) and the government feel they have to be able to intercept such processes before they turn into bloody attacks. Hence the need for such laws but again government surveillance is not a new thing. It’s been there and big attacks have happened over those years too. In any case, Britain is in the news for massive spying on its citizens.