11-18-2016   News
Photo credit: The Goldwater

In an era of ever increasing government overreach, Britain's Investigatory Powers Bill allows all internet activity to be stored for a year, giving officials such as police and intelligence officers access to what sites people have visited without a warrant. Prime Minister May asserts these new powers are needed to fight crime and terror. May indicated the law "provide some of the strongest protections and safeguards anywhere in the democratic world and an approach that sets new standards for openness, transparency and oversight". Civil Rights campaigner Shami Chakrabarti refers to the bill as a "breath-taking attack on the internet security of every man, woman and child in our country."

American ex-pat Edward Snowden weighed in on the measure, warning citizens that the British authorities would essentially be gathering "the activity log of your life". In reference to Parliament officials dismissing the gravity of the legislation with "it's only communications data", Snowden tweeted 'It's only communications data' = 'It's only a comprehensive record of your private activities'.

Broadband firms and other communications companies will be tasked with the responsibility of storing internet histories, including websites visited, and apps connected via computers and other electronic devices. Authorities will then be able to access these records for a wide range of inquiries, including missing persons reports, possible criminal activities, and even those who may be scamming government benefits. Prime Minister May stressed that authorities will only receive basic data, the "modern equivalent of an itemized phone bill." More sinister operations, such as viewing the content of emails, computer hacking and tapping phone will still require a warrant. Overseas companies are not required to comply with the new law.

Supporters of the law argue that when a person's life is in imminent danger, this gives the authorities an opportunity to act quickly in gathering intelligence, and that access to greater amounts of data allow for more effective monitoring of terror suspects or others who may threaten the UK's security.

The cost of the new law is expected to be around 300 million US (£247m) over 10 years. Costs of implementation include storage of records and the establishment of a new warrant approval regime, as actions requiring a warrant from the home office will be lessened under the new law.

Terror watchdog David Anderson QC says of the new law, "This isn't a license for the police to simply prowl over everything you have been doing, but I quite accept that a lot of data is being kept by these service providers and under the government's proposals it would be kept for a very long time." He further stated the law created obvious risk, and he cannot support the law unless those risks are minimized. The Labour Party home secretary Andy Burnham referred to the law as "neither a snooper's charter nor a plan for mass surveillance."

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