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Investigatory Powers Bill Makes Your Browsing History Available To UK Officials

Investigatory Powers Bill Makes Your Browsing History Available To UK Officials

by Justin OConnellDecember 29, 2015

A new Investigatory Powers Bill is making waves in the UK and has critics from government officials to Edward Snowden. 

Home Secretary Theresa May announced the new Investigatory Powers Bill around Christmas. The bill stipulates that the browsing history of everyone in the UK will have to be stored for a year. Police and security services will enjoy access without warrant. May said the information is “the modern equivalent of an itemised phone bill”.

On November 4, The Independent invoked the Freedom of Information Act and asked the Home Office to disclose “the web browser history of all web browsers on the Home Secretary Theresa May’s GSI network account for one week.” Officials refused, saying the request was “scattergun” and “without any idea of what might be revealed.”

That was not all they said: “We have considered your request and we believe it to be vexatious. Section 14(1) of the Act provides that the Home Office is not obliged to comply with a request for information of this nature,” officials told The Independent. Like much of UK’s online focus, May claims the bill will keep people’s minds free from poison and hatred. 

“There should be no area of cyberspace which is a haven for those who seek to harm us to plot, poison minds and peddle hatred under the radar,” Ms May stated of the Investigatory Powers Bill in Parliament.

“But I am also clear that the exercise and scope of investigatory powers should be clearly set out and subject to stringent safeguards and robust oversight, including ‘double-lock’ authorisation for the most intrusive capabilities,” she went on. “This bill will establish world-leading oversight to govern an investigatory powers regime which is more open and transparent than anywhere else in the world.” Critics of the bill come from casual Internet users to individuals in high government offices. 

“In every other country in the world, post-Snowden, people are holding their government’s feet to the fire on these issues, but in Britain we idly let this happen […] Because for the past 200 years we haven’t had a Stasi or a Gestapo, we are intellectually lazy about it, so it’s an uphill battle,” Conservative MP David Davis told The Guardian. Edward Snowden, as you might anticipate, is no fan. He tweeted long before the bill was passed: 

Prime Minister David Cameron sped up the passing of the Investigatory Powers Bill in the wake of the Paris AttacksThe UK has been on the forefront of online regulation, having already looked to ban internet companies from providing total Encryption to its users. Policymakers in the US have looked to do the same.

Backdoors are a favorite option of governments in securing cyber networks. Last week, Jupiter Networks discovered unauthorized code in its firmware which created a backdoor for hackers to access its devices, something which the National Security Agency apparently knew about.

In fact, fundamental building blocks of the Internet are flawed, open for exploit by nefarious online characters.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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