A sweeping new surveillance regime is to be enshrined in UK law in the coming weeks, after the Investigatory Powers Bill passed through the House of Lords yesterday. All that’s now required for the bill to become the Investigatory Powers Act is the Queen’s approval, a formality known as royal assent.
The new law, dubbed the “snoopers’ charter”, was introduced by then-home secretary Theresa May in 2012, and took two attempts to get passed into law following breakdowns in the previous coalition government. The legislation consolidates various existing powers and introduces several fresh and far-reaching ones to become the UK government’s new guide to lawful mass surveillance.
The law will force internet providers to record every internet customer’s top-level web history in real-time for up to a year, which can be accessed by numerous government departments; force companies to decrypt data on demand — though the government has never been that clear on exactly how it forces foreign firms to do that that; and even disclose any new security features in products before they launch.
Not only that, the law also gives the intelligence agencies the power to hack into computers and devices of citizens (known as equipment interference), although some protected professions — such as journalists and medical staff — are layered with marginally better protections.