The Investigatory Powers Bill, also referred to as the Snooper’s Charter, has officially passed in the United Kingdom. The bill, first introduced in 2015, was passed by the House of Lords and House of Commons and officially signed into law by the Royal Assent (queen) today. Described by Edward Snowden as “the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy,” the bill includes provisions for mass surveillance of innocent citizens and raises extreme privacy concerns.
The law provides United Kingdom intelligence agencies with broad access to data, oftentimes without a warrant. As described by Wired, this includes the ability to ” hack, read, and store any information from any citizen’s computer or phone, even if that citizen is completely innocent,” and will allow access to data by 48 UK agencies. The bill is being justified as a way to protect national security and fight terrorism in the Internet age. It goes into effect in 2017.
The bill has been the subject of much controversy since it was first introduced, and a petition opposing it received over 100,000 signatures.
Powers Granted by the Investigatory Powers Bill
The Investigatory Powers Bill grants UK officials the following powers:
- Hacking & Bulk Hacking: Security services can hack into computers, networks mobile devices, servers and more using what is referred to as “equipment interference.” This hacking will require a warrant. It allows for bulk collection of metadata and the ability to hack into systems, including on citizens from targeted areas outside the UK. Companies can be forced to assist in hacking efforts, when needed.
- Web Records & Communications Information: The law provides access to communications data, with provisions for collection and storage of data by ISPs and messenger services for a period of 12 months. Data to be stored includes details about communications made, who they are sent to, when, and from where. Some of this collection may be warrantless.
- Bulk Data collection: In addition to the communications data above, bulk sets of personal data may also be obtained and used by UK authorities. This includes data of non-criminals and large, encompassing data sets.
- Commissioners: New roles will be created for those approving warrants and handling other details related to the bill. Roles include an Investigatory Powers Commissioner and judicial commissioners.
Protecting Your Data and Privacy
As a company that stands for privacy and security, Golden Frog is disheartened to see the passage of the Investigatory Powers Bill and its powers of mass surveillance. With the passage of the bill and its privacy violations, many in the UK will be seeking ways better secure their data and ensure privacy online. VPNs, such as VyprVPN, are a great way to protect your data from sweeping surveillance practices and data retention such as that included in the Investigatory Powers Bill. A VPN encrypts your Internet connection so your data – including personal communications, IP address, location and browsing history – remains private and secure at all times, and is not visible to ISPs or telco providers.
The Investigatory Powers Bill and VyprVPN
When using a VPN, your online privacy is better protected than without one, as Internet service providers or telcos will only see that you connected to the VPN and are unable to view other personal details about your activity. At this time, we are making no changes to our policies or operations in regards to the United Kingdom. We will keep our users informed if anything changes as the Investigatory Powers Bill legislation is enacted. For more information on data retention legislation and Golden Frog’s data retention policies, please read our detailed blog post.