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UK Passes Surveillance Law That Expands Government Snooping Powers

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor
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The U.K. passed a surveillance bill on Wednesday that expands the government’s spying powers.

The Investigatory Powers Bill, colloquially known as the “snoopers’ charter,” will compel internet providers to retain customer web history for up to a year by default, according to a number of reports.

Government agencies apparently have the ability to access this data, decrypt other data, and hack electronic devices, but it is not exactly clear under what stipulations or how this exactly differs from laws already on the books.

It was passed under the helm of the Conservative Party, which is led by Prime Minister Theresa May.

The approval of the measure may pit the U.K. against international organization like the United Nations (UN), and the European Union (EU), which has one less member since the U.K. voted to leave.

The UN’s privacy chief, Joseph Cannataci, said the legislation is “worse than scary,” according to Wired.

“When those laws were put into place there was no internet or the internet was not used in the way it is today,” he continued, referencing the fact that the original Investigatory Powers Bill predates modern technology. “It is the golden age of surveillance, they’ve never had so much data.”

As for the EU, once the U.K. completes the “Brexit” transition, it may be difficult for the two governmental powers to come up with agreements relating to the transfer of data because of the different jurisdictional laws.

Privacy advocates, unsurprisingly, are worried about the expansion of government surveillance powers.

Some within the the U.K. parliament argued that it would restrict the freedom of the press.

“Wouldn’t you go further and to say that putting restrictions on the press in a Bill on national security is actually precisely the wrong place to have restrictions on the press – it makes it look as if we’re really trying to hit them hard?” Tory Member of Parliament (MP) Jacob Rees-Mogg asked during deliberation, according to the Independent.

Tech companies within Silicon Valley like Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook criticized the bill earlier this year as it went through the legislative process. The corporations sent a letter to the committee of MPs arguing that it would be a “Risk to user trust,” and would harm network integrity and cybersecurity.

Jim Killock, Director of the Open Rights Group, who called the piece of legislation the “most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy,” said that the opposition Labour party “did not table any serious amendments to this Draconion legislation in the House of Lords,” reports The Guardian.

He essentially believes that counter-arguments within the U.K. government were not formidable or at least fell on deaf ears.

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