UK Home Secretary Theresa May’s plans to give the police and security services more power to monitor people’s internet use without the need for a warrant further erodes the British public’s right to privacy for very little intelligence gain.
As part of the Investigatory Powers Bill, internet companies will have to hold details of people’s web browsing history and app use for 12 months. The police and security services will then be allowed to access this data without a warrant to see which websites people have visited.
May claims that this is not an invasion of privacy because the specific pages people visit on a website will not be stored, but seems to forget that it is not the state’s business to monitor what people read and when. There would be uproar if the state wanted unwarranted access to the subscriber lists of all magazines, especially those critical of the government, but online this appears to be accepted.
Even more worrying is the fact that this breach of personal privacy is being done without any real benefit to intelligence gathering. While the general population may visit websites without encryption, it is trivial for anyone who is actually looking to commit a crime or act of terrorism to use a VPN or TOR to hide which websites they are visiting form prying eyes.
Those plotting terror attacks or selling drugs on the darknet will not be affected by the proposals at all – it is innocent web users who the government will be spying on, seeing where they get their news, how they communicate with their friends, and where they bank.
The Conservative Party was once the party that campaigned against the state’s prying eyes, and as recently as the under the last Labour government complained of state interference with people’s lives, but apparently none of these beliefs have translated online. We now have a government that has imposed censorship to prevent people seeing and reading things they deem “immoral” online, and even if you don’t want to see that they now want to know exactly what you are reading and watching.