UK's new surveillance law creates a national browser history with a search engine to match

The Snoopers Charter, an extreme surveillance bill that passed last week, and it's the most extensive domestic spying regime that any "democratic" country has passed, and is a potential blueprint for Orwellian surveillance elsewhere in the years to come.

The Snoopers Charter requires ISPs to retain a log of all the websites you visit for up to a year, as well as a list of the apps you use, and lets the police search this data without a warrant and without any record-keeping (of the sort that would show, for example, that the police are abusing their powers by using them for personal gain, petty vengeance, or racial profiling).

Additionally, the bill allows the police and the country's spies to go hack computers in the UK and abroad, as well as requiring companies to install ambiguously defined back doors to get around crypto.

James Vincent's explainer at The Verge is a good primer on these intrusive surveillance powers.

There’s also the worry that the targeted hacking laws could be used to hack multiple people under the use of something called a "thematic warrant." Ross Anderson, a professor of security engineering at Cambridge University who gave testimony about the IP bill to the government, gives the example of the police chief of a UK city wanting to stem knife crime, and asking the government to force Google to get data from Android smartphones. "The point is that it’s possible," Anderson tells The Verge. "Perhaps the government has given some private assurances to these companies [that it won’t happen], but we know from long experience that such private assurances are not worth the paper they’re not written on."

In addition to bulk hacking, the IP bill legalizes the bulk collection of communication data from around the world, activity that Snowden first revealed in 2013. The UK courts judged that this activity was in breach of human rights law earlier this year, but once the IP bill passes, it’ll be absolutely legal. Although the government claims that this sort of information is treated respectfully, its own internal memos have shown staff abusing their powers; using bulk datasets for things like finding addresses to send birthday cards, and "checking details of family members for personal convenience."

THE UK IS ABOUT TO WIELD UNPRECEDENTED SURVEILLANCE POWERS — HERE’S WHAT IT MEANS [James Vincent/The Verge]

(Image: Shepard Fairey/1984)

Notable Replies

  1. This will be law in the United States within a year or so, depending on when the next domestic terror attack (non-white) happens

  2. It's a small price to pay to pretend to be safe!

  3. It's worth noting that we've had something like that in Denmark since 2007. Four things are especially noteworthy:

    • It's trivially easy to circumvent.
    • The EU Court of Justice struck down this law for being too invasive. The actual logging has since been partially dismantled. Not that that helps the UK any these days.
    • The police has denounced the practice as not useful in the real world. criminal evidence gathered this way is expensive and of questionable value.
    • There was a cost associated with establishing it, both monetary (taxes + more expensive connections), and more unexpected social ones. A number of ISP employees suddenly needed security vetting from the internal intelligence service, a process which was bungled so that their dossiers were shared with employers. For instance, a number of people were outed as gay or trans to their bosses. Others simply quit rather than go through the procedure.

    ... Not to mention that the oversight more or less stopped at the security vetting of individuals. As usual with procedures established these days, no transparency or public oversight was included. Not even the basic right to review your own logs. Expect similar in the UK, I'm afraid.

  4. Shuck says:

    It's amazing that an ostensibly democratic state could grant itself more invasive surveillance powers than most dictatorships. (Or possibly all dictatorships - I've seen it suggested that this surpasses what any other government is doing.) How are people not completely outraged by this?

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