[Oliver Price | News Manager]
The opinions expressed here are the author’s own, and are not endorsed by Trident Media of Hertfordshire Students’ Union
Theresa May, the Conservative Home Secretary, has recently spoken about her new security bill, the Draft Communications Data Bill, which has been dubbed the, “Snoopers Charter” (real name: Investigatory Powers Bill). May has, so far, been vague about what the specifics of the bill entail. However, it appears that the bill will force Internet Service Providers (i.e. the people who give you your internet connection) to store everyone’s browsing history for an entire year, so that if the police or security services need to access the data to prevent terrorism or stop crime, they can.
This means that one weird video that you looked up that one time, or that really inappropriate joke you made on WhatsApp while drunk, will be stored by the likes of TalkTalk for a whole year. TalkTalk recently leaked thousands of their customers’ credit information, if they cannot be trusted to keep information that they actually want under lock and key safe, how can they be trusted with sensitive browsing data that they don’t really care about?
Once this browsing data is stored, someone unscrupulous will try (and probably succeed) in accessing it. Be it hackers trying to blackmail people for money, threatening to reveal their weird habits or private messages, or even people blackmailing politicians to sway democracy in their favour. This endangers everyone who needs to keep any data private.
Another issue surrounding Snoopers Charter that is mentioned is the idea of “banning encryption”. Encryption is used everyday in our normal internet usage from your iMessages to credit card info. The government want to make it so that they can access any encryption or have a “back door”.
This means effectively giving the government the keys to any encryption. Of course once the keys are all stored on one central government server it makes hacking that server extremely valuable in the wrong hands. Giving the government these “back doors” creates a treasure trove of keys that, if hacked, will result in valuable information from many companies, including people’s credit card information, getting leaked even more easily than it might do currently.
Even if you aren’t worried about losing your credit card information, the Snoopers’ Charter is, in my opinion, an unwarranted breach of everyone’s privacy.
“I don’t care if the government have my data as long as they save one person from a terrorist attack,” you might say. However, I see no reason why this spying will help anyone. If a security agency want to target and intercept suspected terrorists’ data they already can. What the Snoopers Charter will do is increase that spying to everyone, almost assuming everyone’s guilt.
If anything, this new tidal wave of data will be nigh-on impossible to efficiently sift through. In essence, they have gone from searching for a needle in a haystack to a needle in a football field.
As the government (and anyone else who wishes to access the data) have access to every single conversation you have, the Charter basically removes everyone’s rights to privacy, and I personally value mine.
If you take away the fact that cameras and microphones in every room in the country cost far too much to implement for it to actually be feasible, I see no reason why the Home Secretary would not put telescreens (read 1984) in everyone’s homes. The logic is exactly the same, if it’s okay to spy on everyone’s digital lives, why not their physical lives? If you are in favour of snooping on people’s internet activity then why not their physical activity too? Would you let the government put a camera and microphone into every single room in your house… including the bathroom?
So there it is, The Snoopers’ Charter. In my opinion, it’s a terrible infringement on our privacy, and makes your data insecure. It is nothing short of George Orwell’s worst nightmare.