Mobile phones; laptops; iPads; iPhones; technology surrounds us. But what if every one of those everyday appliances was spying on you?
The passing of the Investigatory Powers Bill – otherwise known as Snooper’s Charter – has changed the face of UK politics. “The UK now has a surveillance law that is more suited to a dictatorship than a democracy. The state has unprecedented powers to monitor and analyse UK citizens’ communications regardless, of whether we are suspected of any criminal activity,” reported Jim Killock, the director of Open Rights group.
Almost a year ago, on the 29th of November, the bill became law. The fight to Leave the EU had just begun; it was almost brushed under the rug whilst squabbles for or against a free market ricocheted in the public’s ears.
So, what exactly can the government do?
It will now keep a record of every website every citizen visits for up to a year. It will only track the base domain someone visits, not the precise URL of each site. For instance, if you visited Pornhub, they will know the time of day you visited, your IP address, how long you stayed on the page, and some data about your computer; however it cannot tell what type of porn you watch.
Dirty, dirty boy.
So, what if the government knows you stayed nine hours on Netflix? Does it really effect you or your rights? Yes, it does.
The key issue is about power. The bill lacks judicial oversight. Police have access to civilians’ internet history, with only a specially trained supervising officer safeguarding the interests of the public. The passing of this bill founds a dangerous new age, where infringing on personal privacy is one and the same with upholding a passive society.
The Snowden revelations of 2013 revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) in the US was spying on its citizens. Moreover, this means your thoughts are never your own. Maybe Winston Smith had a point when he said: ‘Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull.’
The bill has also stated that technological companies like Apple must allow the authorities to decrypt user data when needed. Whether this will be put into practice after Apple’s lawsuit against the FBI over data decryption, is another matter.
And what about cameras?
There are an estimated 5.9 million cameras watching over everyone in the UK. In the near future, there are plans to pair these surveillance tools with new technologies such as movement detection and facial recognition: every moment of our lives will be documented.
For many supporters of the bill, the defence is ‘if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear’. That is beside the point: an infringement on my privacy should be, under law, a violation of my rights. A government condoning and even reinforcing these violations, is undisputably wrong.