UK Passes the Most Extreme Surveillance Law in the History of Western Democracy


The UK government passed yesterday a new sweeping cyber-surveillance that grants authorities the legal power to collect web traffic and telephony data on all UK citizens in bulk, even on people that have never committed a crime or aren’t the subjects of an official investigation.

The new law, known as Snooper’s Charter 2 or the Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Bill), replaces the older Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).

Following public outcry, the UK government drafted the IP Bill to replace RIPA, a law that allowed the GCHQ to collect bulk data on its citizens, and which Edward Snowden unmasked following his NSA revelations.

Ironically, the IP Bill ended up being much worse than the RIPA law ever was, with regulators shoving more and more privacy-intrusive clauses inside the IP Bill, all for the sake of fighting terrorists and fighting threats on the home field.

IP Bill to be signed into law by the end of the year

The law passed yesterday by both UK legislative houses (the House of Commons and the House of Lords), and officials expect the Royal House to sign it into law by the end of the year.

Here is just a small list of all the new surveillance regulation included in the IP Bill’s approved version:

  • Internet Service Providers must log every user’s web browsing history for a year.
  • Police and other law enforcement agencies can access this data through a specialized interface and search for suspects or general profiles.
  • Security services can access and analyze public and private databases.
  • Government agencies can still collect communications data in bulk, just like through RIPA.
  • Police and other law enforcement agencies can, under certain circumstances, hack into users’ devices.
  • Communications operators must remove their side of encryption and help state agencies access data or devices.

For the past years, human rights groups, tech companies, politicians, and regular UK citizens have criticized the new law, which grants the UK government the same powers Chinese authorities have.

UK government ignored all pleas to drop the law

Amnesty International, Open Democracy, Open Rights Group and Privacy International have heavily criticized the IP Bill version approved by the UK government.

Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo have also pleaded with UK legislators not to pass the law.

On Twitter, Edward Snowden called the new law “the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy.” He also added that the IP Bill “goes farther than many autocracies.”

The IP Bill is only one of the many similar laws passed around the world that legitimize en-masse government spying.