The Investigatory Powers Bill or Snooper’s Charter as it has previously been coined was today unveiled to parliament in what campaigners are calling a rushed through timescale.
The draft of the bill published as recently as November 2015 has been under scrutiny from parliamentary committees who are tasked with digesting proposed laws in minute detail to ensure they are fair and just.
All three committees involved in the process raised grave concerns about the lack of privacy and oversight the bill provides the general public. Despite such shortcomings and within an unprecedented time scale the revised IPBill was today passed to Parliament to consider.
Privacy campaigners have raised concerns about the speed the bill is travelling at and with the government hopeful to have the law in place by the end of the year it certainly appears there is a rush to push the bill through quickly.
The government claim the law is required to further combat terrorist activity and keep ordinary citizens and the country safe by updating current laws and clarifying others.
The bill will require internet firms to store the website addresses (URLs) that each and every individual visits for up to 12-months.
VPN Services may escape IPBill grasp
However, questions have been raised around how VPN services and other encrypted communication services based outside UK jurisdiction provided by companies such as IPVanish will be handled by the IPBill.
VPN services allow users to encrypt the data originating from their system before it is passed to a server located either inside the UK or increasingly outside which would, in theory, prevent the IPBill from being successful. While no method of encryption can guarantee 100% privacy due to many facets that have to be taken into consideration such as user error it is left to be seen how the IPBill intend to deal with such security products.
The latest IPBill states that warrants can be issued to companies based outside the United Kingdom via any base or infrastructure they have located within the UK. With very few VPN providers based in the UK and servers available in jurisdictions that would not be cooperative to UK law enforcement, it appears the IPBill may be all bark with no bite.
Determined users who feel the need to protect their privacy as a human right or criminals and terrorists who the bill is intended to protect us from are likely to move to such encrypted communications.
Safeguarding user privacy questioned
Theresa May the UK’s Home Secretary stated that the latest iteration of the bill was “both clearer and stronger in protecting privacy” but privacy campaigners disagreed.
Jim Killock the executive director of the Open Rights Group who VPNCompare support said:
On first reading, the revised Bill barely pays lip service to the concerns raised by the committees that scrutinised the draft Bill. If passed, it would mean that the UK has one of the most draconian surveillance laws of any democracy with mass surveillance powers to monitor every citizen’s browsing history.
Further details released in the ever so slightly revised bill suggest that further legal backing will be given to the hacking of computers and smartphones by the security services.
The most worrying aspect of the bill is how little noise has been made by mainstream media and while widely reported across news outlets it appears the story is not a huge headline maker with the average UK citizen likely to be unaware of the impact possible to their browsing habits should the bill become law.
image by freeimageslive.co.uk – stockmedia.cc