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Old November 4th, 2015 #1
News Bot
Post Theresa May unveils UK surveillance measures in wake of Snowden claims

New surveillance powers will be given to the police and security services, allowing them to access records tracking every UK citizen’s use of the internet without any judicial check, under the provisions of the draft investigatory powers bill unveiled by Theresa May.

It includes new powers requiring internet and phone companies to keep “internet connection records” – tracking every website visited but not every page – for a maximum of 12 months but will not require a warrant for the police, security services or other bodies to access the data. Local authorities will be banned from accessing internet records.

The proposed legislation will also introduce a “double-lock” on the ministerial approval of interception warrants with a new panel of seven judicial commissioners – probably retired judges – given a veto before they can come into force.

But the details of the bill make clear that this new safeguard for the most intrusive powers to spy on the content of people’s conversations and messages will not apply in “urgent cases” – defined as up to five days – where judicial approval is not possible.

The draft investigatory powers bill published on Wednesday by the home secretary aims to provide a “comprehensive and comprehensible” overhaul of Britain’s fragmented surveillance laws. It comes two-and-a-half years after the disclosures by the whistleblower Edward Snowden of the scale of secret mass surveillance of the global traffic in confidential personal data carried out by Britain’s GCHQ and the US’s National Security Agency (NSA).

It will replace the current system of three separate commissioners with a senior judge as a single investigatory powers commissioner.

May told MPs that the introduction of the most controversial power – the storage of everyone’s internet connection records tracking the websites they have visited, which is banned as too intrusive in the US and every European country including Britain – was “simply the modern equivalent of an itemised phone bill”.

Her recommendations were broadly welcomed by the shadow home secretary, Andy Burnham, but received a more cautious welcome from the former Conservative shadow home secretary David Davis, the former shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper and Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister.

Some former ministers pressed May on the nature of the double-lock, whereby a warrant could be issued first by the home secretary and then endorsed by a specially appointed judge. They also asked whether some warrants could be issued by the home secretary outside this dual-lock process.

Burnham said it was important to stress the proposals were “neither a snooper’s charter nor a plan for mass surveillance”. The Labour frontbencher said the UK’s laws were outdated given that changes in technology had made the jobs of the security services and police much harder.

Burnham said: “In a world where the threats we face internationally and domestically are growing, parliament cannot sit on its hands a

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Old November 11th, 2015 #2
News Bot
Post UK Draft IP Bill: The last policy discussion about surveillance before the mass gagging

I laughed out loud when I saw the calls from Andrew Parker, the head of MI5, for a mature debate on surveillance, in particular in relation to the draft investigatory Powers Bill (via Paul Bernal). My reading of the IP Bill is that it will result in, and perhaps intends, closing for ever the democratic debate about what constitutes acceptable state surveillance.

Gagging orders for targeted warrants: interception, equipment interference and communications data. S.43(1-7) impose a gag order in relation to the existence or any other aspects of an interception warrant, except for seeking legal advice. S.44(2)(a) makes it an offense to disclose anything about such a warrant, with a penalty of up to 12 months in jail and / or a fine. Similar provisions exist for “equipment interference”: S.102 makes it an offense for a telecommunication provider disclose anything about a warrant for hacking someone! Similar secrecy provisions apply to notices for handling out communication data (S.66).

These prohibitions may make sense in the context of operational needs for secrecy — such as during investigations. But what about when the warrant expires? What about either interception or equipment interference against subjects, organizations, or others that does not lead to any criminal or other conviction — namely against innocent people and associations? What is the imperative for keeping those secret? The imperative is simply to keep the debate about the surveillance capabilities, the uses of warrants, the selection of targets for surveillance, the prevalence of surveillance, and the techniques used and their proportionality secret — namely to avoid even the possibility of a mature debate in the future.

Gagging orders for retention notices. The previous warrants and notices clearly applied, at least for some time, to operations against specific targets. More interestingly, secrecy is also required when it comes to issued retention notices: S.77, makes disclosing such a notice a civil offence.

What this means is that the secretary of state may issue notices for operators to keep some communication data, but these operators are not allowed to tell anyone! This despite the significant public policy interest on the matter, that has in fact led to numerous challenges against such policies, and the eventual legal challenge of the EU Data Retention Regulation in the European Court of Justice. Of course this may lead to nonsensical outcomes: I could build a service, and deploy it in the UK or elsewhere (remember extra-territoriality S.79) only to be told that a retention notice exists covering my service — which was previously unknown to me due to secrecy, and that I cannot discuss or challenge politically openly due to the same secrecy.

This is in contrast with, for example, the Data Retention directive that provided a strict list of services and categories of data that were to be retained, in the text of the directive — not in secret. Even those provisions were foun

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Old February 28th, 2016 #3
News Bot
Post Investigatory Powers Bill: Theresa May accused of rushing, pre-Brexit, snoopers' charter into law to avoid scrutiny .Bill would give government unmatched rights to invade privacy.

Theresa May has been accused of trying to rush through controversial new surveillance laws before the EU referendum campaign, after it emerged that a new “snoopers’ charter” will be introduced in the Commons this week.

The Home Secretary’s draft Bill – giving spy agencies sweeping powers to monitor people’s web history – was attacked in a series of parliamentary reports earlier this month, sparking calls for it to be entirely rewritten.

A joint committee of MPs and peers has claimed that Mrs May’s proposed overhaul of spying laws was “flawed” and set out 86 proposed changes. However, Mrs May will formally bring forward the Government’s Investigatory Powers Bill on 1 March.

This has sparked concern that ministers want to bounce MPs into backing the new surveillance powers. The former Tory leadership contender David Davis said there was “no doubt” that the Government wanted to rush the Bill through Parliament to avoid scrutiny.

Government whips have told Labour that the Bill will be published on 1 March, with a second reading – giving MPs a line-by-line debate on the Bill – scheduled for 14 March. The Bill will then go to committee stage for scrutiny on 22 March, with a final vote expected in Parliament by the end of April.

Mr Davis said: “When you work it out, it’s a 300-page Bill – so that’s something like five seconds to consider each line on second reading.”

There was “no operational reason to rush it through”, he said, adding that existing emergency legislation – brought in in 2014 – could be extended for a year.

Mr Davis said: “It all keeps with their strategy, which is to rush everything through. They know when they engage with experts they lose. This is the way they will try to get this through – on the rush. There’s no doubt about it.”

Andy Burnham, the shadow Home Secretary, told The Independent on Sunday that he would withdraw Labour’s support for the Bill unless Mrs May backs down and allows lengthy scrutiny of the proposals.

He said: “The law needs to be updated to help the police investigate serious crime and protect us against terrorism. But my offer to work constructively with Theresa May only stands if Parliament is given enough time to carefully scrutinise this Bill.

“It needed to be considerably revised after three expert reports just a matter of weeks ago. For Labour’s support, ministers must show they have listened to our calls for greater transparency, stronger safeguards and protection of people’s privacy.

“It is crucial that this Bill is not rushed and necessary time is given to consider these complex issues.”

A Labour source added: “The Tories can’t rush through poor legislation just so they can devote more time to the [EU] referendum. They’ve tied themselves in knots over Europe but doing this won’t help.”

The Bill is the Government’s second attempt at creating new digital surveillance powers for the security services. The first – the original “snoopers’ charter” – was dropped after Nick Clegg vetoed its intr

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Old July 8th, 2016 #4
News Bot
Post Fifteen secret warrants in force granting bulk data collection in UK - Watchdog reveals for first time number of orders imposed on telephone and internet firms under Telecommunicat

There are 15 secret “directions” in force under the Telecommunications Act enabling the intelligence services to collect bulk data about online and phone traffic, a surveillance watchdog has revealed.

The number of orders imposed on telephone and internet companies under section 94 of the 1984 legislation has been published for the first time by the interception of communications commissioner’s office (IOCCO). The firms involved have not been identified.

A further eight directions have been made to provide for emergency services and to protect security personnel, according to a report on the operation of the rarely disclosed powers.

Parliament does not have to be notified of section 94 directions and until last year they were not subject to formal oversight from any watchdog. Their operation will be reorganised under the investigatory powers bill although the IOCCO is pressing for stronger oversight of bulk communications data collection.

The 15 directions, or warrants, relate to traffic data, subscriber and service user information acquired by the government’s monitoring agency, GCHQ, and the national security service, MI5. They do not include the content of calls or emails.

Any secretary of state can sign a secret section 94 direction. Their use was so poorly recorded within Whitehall, the IOCCO said, that it was difficult to be sure it could account for every one ever issued.

Sir Stanley Burnton, the commissioner, said: “The review of section 94 has been extremely challenging. Our report highlights clearly the difficulties when statutes are operated in secret and without codified statutory procedures.

“We make extensive recommendations that the intelligence and law enforcement agencies must implement to clarify and bring consistency to their procedures, to remedy the lack of record-keeping requirements and to ensure that we can oversee properly how section 94 directions are given and used.”

Telephone and internet service companies have to comply with the orders and cannot reveal their existence. Directions are not time limited.

The report notes: “It is not an exaggeration to say that the lack of codified procedures made it challenging for us to piece together and determine historically what section 94 notices had been given, by whom and when, which ones had been modified and whether they were still extant or not.”

There are other section 94 orders that do not fall within the scope of the watchdog, including some relating to Ofcom and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The report shows that some service providers subject to bulk collection orders were worried about publicity and whether information would be shared with foreign intelligence agencies.

Some of the public electronic communications networks (PECNs), the watchdog said, raised concerns “relating to reputational [and commercial] risks”. Others worried about whether bulk communications data they had disclosed had been shared with agencies in other jurisd

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Old October 18th, 2016 #5
News Bot
Post MI6, MI5 and GCHQ unlawfully collected private data for 10 years

The UK's security services, including GCHQ, MI5 and MI6, have been unlawfully collecting and using mass datasets of personal information for more than 10 years.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal has ruled in a judgement published online that the bodies had been collecting data without safeguards or supervision.

The setups of 'Bulk Communications Data' (BCD) and 'Bulk Personal Datasets' by the agencies did not comply with the right to privacy (Article 8) in the European Convention on Human Rights. The two schemes "failed to comply" with the ECHR protections until they were admitted and codes of practices were put in place in 2015, the tribunal added.

BCD consists of the 'where, when and what' of messages sent between individuals. BPD allow officials to collect mass datasets that could cover health, tax, and electoral information. Both types of datasets have been used as part of criminal investigations, but have been criticised by privacy advocates for being overly intrusive.

The tribunal added that the massive datasets (BPD) "include considerable volumes of data about biographical details, commercial and financial activities, communications and travel".

"While each of these datasets in themselves may be innocuous, intelligence value is added in the interaction between multiple datasets," the court documents state. BPD are used by GCHQ, MI5 and MI6; BCD is only obtained and used by GCHQ and MI5.

Privacy International, a civil liberties group which took the action to court, said the ruling was "highly significant" and it confirmed the bodies were "secretly spying on a massive scale".

When Theresa May, as Home Secretary, introduced the controversial Investigatory Powers Bill – to reform the UK's surveillance laws – in November 2015, it was admitted that the bodies used Section 94 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 to collect data under both the BCD and BPD regimes. The tribunal said a number of opportunities to admit to this before 2015 had not been taken.

The powers put in place in 2015 were deemed lawful by the tribunal. However, it is not known what will happen to data collected under the unlawful regimes.

"In any event it seems difficult to conclude that the use of BCD was foreseeable by the public, when it was not explained to Parliament; and several opportunities arose when legislation or Codes of Practice were being introduced or amended," the tribunal said. It drew particular attention to the passing of S.80 of RIPA in 2000.

The court's ruling comes as the government's Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Bill) is in the final stages of becoming law – it is currently passed through the House of Commons and is being debated by the House of Lords. The Bill has been heavily criticised by numerous committees and officials.

Powers included in the IP Bill include bulk collection of data, the ability to remotely hack mobile phones and computers, and the storing of website history. The law is the first time these powers have been specifically wri

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Old November 4th, 2016 #6
News Bot
Post IP Bill Is Most Extreme Surveillance Law Ever Passed in a Democracy. [UK]

The U.K.’s Investigatory Powers Bill, also known as the Snooper’s Charter, is an extraordinary document. It grants the state the ability to harvest information in bulk and to process and profile it without suspicion. Companies can be compelled to hack their customers and weaken their security systems. Innocent people’s devices can be hacked in “bulk” in order to get closer to unspecified targets.

All of these practices appear to have existed for many years, in secret and without a Parliamentary vote. Hidden creative interpretations of our existing laws allowed so-called “bulk powers” to gather information about millions of people, secretly tap internal cables belonging to Google or Yahoo! and to hack foreign companies, such as Belgium’s national telecoms provider, turning them into Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) surveillance conduits. The only reason we know, of course, is because of Edward Snowden’s actions, revealing what the U.S.’s NSA and Britain’s GCHQ were up to.

Even after the Snowden documents, the government refused to explain what was taking place. Thanks largely to one U.K.-based NGO, Privacy International, a great deal of these activities have been detailed and found to be illegal. By making accusations about these practices in court, the British government have been forced to swiftly produce codes of practice and explain in public what the rules really are.

You’d think the sheer revocation of democracy and failure of accountability would be enough to outrage British MPs. You’d think this shift from targeted phone taps focused on specific known criminals to one of blanket surveillance to start fishing for new suspects would deserve a principled national debate.

Apparently not. The Bill was supported by the opposition as a sensible update of laws that had fallen behind digital technology, with new powers to deal with increasing terrorist threats.

Without a strong opposition, without conflict, there is little chance of change in the British political system. It relies on disputes to tease out the tricky issues

Labour focused on a few narrow issues of accountability, despite Jeremy Corbyn’s supposed lifelong commitment to human rights and civil liberties. Instead, Labour took their cues from Andy Burnham, a former minister with leadership ambitions. While he was very concerned about the potential for trades unionists to be surveilled, he appeared not to grasp the sheer scale and power of the measures in the Investigatory Powers Bill.

We are left with a Bill that mostly permits and codifies all the illegal practices revealed through whistleblowing and court action. There is one new power, which has been woefully under-debated.

This is the collection of Internet Connection Records (ICRs)—a record of which services every citizen it is connecting to, logged in real-time. This unprecedented level of micro-surveillance is accompanied by a machine to make sense of the mass of data, called a ‘Filter’, but is in essence, a

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Old November 17th, 2016 #7
News Bot
Post The Snooper's Charter Just Became Law - And Now the Government Can Spy On Your Internet Activities

Another day, another political disappointment that could have huge implications. Members of the House of Lords backed down on an amendment to it, meaning that with nothing else standing in the way, the Investigatory Powers Bill, the law that legitimates the sort of bulk surveillance Edward Snowden warned us about - and it will now become law.

The Investigatory Powers Act, as it will now be known has been a long time coming since it started life in 2014 under the coalition government - but now it has finally been passed, to the disappointment of privacy campaigners everywhere. Essentially, it means that governments will require ISPs to collect data on all of our online activity and store it for a year - so that it can be raked through by the security services when they want to look for terrorists.

Disappointingly, the only political party to consistently oppose it has been the Liberal Democrats (remember them?). The Tories strongly supported it, the SNP broadly abstained - and Labour were slightly all over the place, but ended up supporting it too.

The new law might sound like a good idea in principle, but here's the thing: Bulk collection doesn't actually work as a means of stopping terrorists, as NSA-whistleblower Bill Binney explained when describing the analogous American system.

And worse still, there are some very scary implications. The technology existing and being implemented also means that conceivably a future government could use the same system to turn Britain into a totalitarian nightmare state where all citizens are constantly monitored by the government. But hey, it's not like there have been any ominous signs of creeping authoritarianism recently... umm, right?

Britain just got a little less free.

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Old November 19th, 2016 #8
News Bot
Post 'Extreme surveillance' becomes UK law with barely a whimper: Lib Dems worried Trump has access

A bill giving the UK intelligence agencies and police the most sweeping surveillance powers in the western world has passed into law with barely a whimper, meeting only token resistance over the past 12 months from inside parliament and barely any from outside.

The Investigatory Powers Act, passed on Thursday, legalises a whole range of tools for snooping and hacking by the security services unmatched by any other country in western Europe or even the US.

The security agencies and police began the year braced for at least some opposition, rehearsing arguments for the debate. In the end, faced with public apathy and an opposition in disarray, the government did not have to make a single substantial concession to the privacy lobby.

US whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted: “The UK has just legalised the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes further than many autocracies.”

Snowden in 2013 revealed the scale of mass surveillance – or bulk data collection as the security agencies prefer to describe it – by the US National Security Agency and the UK’s GCHQ, which work in tandem.

But, against a backdrop of fears of Islamist attacks, the privacy lobby has failed to make much headway. Even in Germany, with East Germany’s history of mass surveillance by the Stasi and where Snowden’s revelations produced the most outcry, the Bundestag recently passed legislation giving the intelligence agencies more surveillance powers.

The US passed a modest bill last year curtailing bulk phone data collection but the victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election is potentially a major reverse for privacy advocates. On the campaign trail, Trump made comments that implied he would like to use the powers of the surveillance agencies against political opponents.

The Liberal Democrat peer Lord Strasburger, one of the leading voices against the investigatory powers bill, said: “We do have to worry about a UK Donald Trump. If we do end up with one, and that is not impossible, we have created the tools for repression. If Labour had backed us up, we could have made the bill better. We have ended up with a bad bill because they were all over the place.

“The real Donald Trump has access to all the data that the British spooks are gathering and we should be worried about that.”

The Investigatory Powers Act legalises powers that the security agencies and police had been using for years without making this clear to either the public or parliament. In October, the investigatory powers tribunal, the only court that hears complaints against MI6, MI5 and GCHQ, ruled that they had been unlawfully collecting massive volumes of confidential personal data without proper oversight for 17 years.

One of the negative aspects of the legislation is that it fails to provide adequate protection for journalists’ sources, which could discourage whistleblowing.

One of the few positives in the legislation is that it sets out clearly for the first t

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Old November 23rd, 2016 #9
News Bot
Post The Snooper's Charter Just Became Law - And Now the Government Can Spy On Your Internet Activities

A few years ago, it would have been unthinkable for the British government to admit that it was hacking into people’s computers and collecting private data on a massive scale. But now, these controversial tactics are about to be explicitly sanctioned in an unprecedented new surveillance law.

Last week, the U.K.’s Parliament approved the Investigatory Powers Bill, dubbed the “Snoopers’ Charter” by critics. The law, which is expected to come into force before the end of the year, was introduced in November 2015 after the fallout from revelations by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden about extensive British mass surveillance. The Investigatory Powers Bill essentially retroactively legalizes the electronic spying programs exposed in the Snowden documents — and also expands some of the government’s surveillance powers.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the new law is that it will give the British government the authority to serve internet service providers with a “data retention notice,” forcing them to record and store for up to 12 months logs showing websites visited by all of their customers. Law enforcement agencies will then be able to obtain access to this data without any court order or warrant. In addition, the new powers will hand police and tax investigators the ability to, with the approval of a government minister, hack into targeted phones and computers. The law will also permit intelligence agencies to sift through “bulk personal datasets” that contain millions of records about people’s phone calls, travel habits, internet activity, and financial transactions; and it will make it legal for British spies to carry out “foreign-focused” large-scale hacks of computers or phones in order to identify potential “targets of interest.”

“Every citizen will have their internet activity — the apps they use, the communications they send, and to who — logged for 12 months,” says Eric King, a privacy expert and former director of Don’t Spy On Us, a coalition of leading British human rights groups that campaigns against mass surveillance. “There is no other democracy in the world, possibly no other country in the world, doing this.”

“There is no other democracy in the world, possibly no other country in the world, doing this.”

King argues that the new law will cause a chilling effect, resulting in fewer people feeling comfortable communicating freely with one another. He cites a Pew survey published in March 2015 that found that 30 percent of American adults had altered their phone or internet habits due to concerns about government surveillance. “It’s going to change how people communicate and express their thoughts,” King says. “For a society that’s supposed to be progressive, that encourages open debate and dialogue, it’s awful.”

Other civil liberties advocates are concerned that the new law will be viewed by governments across the world as a green light to launch similar sweeping surveillance regimes. “The passing of

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Old November 29th, 2016 #10
News Bot
Post Investigatory Powers Bill officially passes into law, giving Britain the 'most extreme spying powers ever seen'

Britain's intelligence services have officially been given the "most extreme spying powers ever seen".

The Investigatory Powers Act has now been given royal assent, meaning that those surveillance rules will pass into law. The bill was officially unveiled a year ago and passed through the House of Lords earlier this month, but the act of being signed off means that those powers now go into effect.

It adds new surveillance powers including rules that force internet providers to keep completely records of every website that all of their customers visit. Those will be available to a wide range of agencies, which includes the Department for Work and Pensions as well as the Food Standards Agency.

In recent months, computer specialists of the project MV-IT systems have built a Boeing 737-800 cockpit and reconstructed part of the cabin with 15 seats. The simulator will be officially opened on October 19, 2016 and able to 'land' at over 20,000 airfields in different weather conditions and at all times and seasons

As well as those internet connection records, surveillance agencies will also be given new powers to force companies to help hack into phones, and to collect more information than ever before on anyone in Britain.

The Home Office hailed the new law as a "landmark Bill which sets ot and governs the poewrs available to the police, security and intelligence agencies to gather and access electronic communications". It said in a statement that it "brings together and updates existing powers while radically overhauling how they are authorised and overseen".

Not all of the powers available in the Bill will be rolled out straight away. Some require testing so will not be ready for some time, the Home Office said.

But others replace the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014, also known as Dripa, which is set to expire on 31 December and so urgently needed updating with the new bill.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: "This Government is clear that, at a time of heightened security threat, it is essential our law enforcement, security and intelligence services have the powers they need to keep people safe.

"The internet presents new opportunities for terrorists and we must ensure we have the capabilities to confront this challenge. But it is also right that these powers are subject to strict safeguards and rigorous oversight.

"The Investigatory Powers Act is world-leading legislation that provides unprecedented transparency and substantial privacy protection."

The Bill has been opposed by tens of thousands of people in a petition. But that is thought to have begun too

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Old November 30th, 2016 #11
News Bot
Post 'Snooper's charter' bill becomes law, extending UK state surveillance - Home secretary hails 'world-leading' laws, which include forcing web and phone companies to collect browsing

The “snooper’s charter” bill extending the reach of state surveillance in Britain was given royal assent and became law on Tuesday as signatures on a petition calling for it to be repealed passed the 130,000 mark.

The home secretary, Amber Rudd, hailed the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 as “world-leading legislation” that provided “unprecedented transparency and substantial privacy protection”.

But privacy campaigners claimed that it would provide an international standard to authoritarian regimes around the world to justify their own intrusive surveillance powers.

The new surveillance law requires web and phone companies to store everyone’s web browsing histories for 12 months and give the police, security services and official agencies unprecedented access to the data.

It also provides the security services and police with new powers to hack into computers and phones and to collect communications data in bulk. The law requires judges to sign off police requests to view journalists’ call and web records, but the measure has been described as “a death sentence for investigative journalism” in the UK.

The Home Office says some of the provisions in the act will require extensive testing and will not be in place for some time. However, powers to require web and phone companies to collect customers’ communications data will be in force before 31 December, the date when the current Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 expires.

The home secretary said: “The Investigatory Powers Act is world-leading legislation, that provides unprecedented transparency and substantial privacy protection.

“The government is clear that, at a time of heightened security threat, it is essential our law enforcement and security and intelligence services have the power they need to keep people safe. The internet presents new opportunities for terrorists and we must ensure we have the capabilities to confront this challenge. But it is also right that these powers are subject to strict safeguards and rigorous oversight.”

Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, responded to the home secretary’s “world-leading” claim, saying: “She is right, it is one of the most extreme surveillance laws ever passed in a democracy. The IP Act will have an impact that goes beyond the UK’s shores. It is likely that other countries, including authoritarian regimes with poor human rights records, will use this law to justify their own intrusive surveillance powers.”

He said the legislation was debated and passed while the public, media and politicians were preoccupied with Brexit: “Now that the bill has passed, there is renewed concern about the extent of the powers that will be given to the police and security agencies.

“In particular, people appear to be worried about new powers that mean our web browsing activity can be collected by internet service providers and viewed by the police and a whole range of government departments. Parliament may choose to ignore

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Old November 30th, 2016 #12
News Bot
Post UK's new Snoopers' Charter just passed an encryption backdoor law by the backdoor

UK's new Snoopers' Charter just passed an encryption backdoor law by the backdoor

How far will it go? You'll have to ask the Home Secretary

Among the many unpleasant things in the Investigatory Powers Act that was officially signed into law this week, one that has not gained as much attention is the apparent ability for the UK government to undermine encryption and demand surveillance backdoors.

As the bill was passing through Parliament, several organizations noted their alarm at section 217 which obliged ISPs, telcos and other communications providers to let the government know in advance of any new products and services being deployed and allow the government to demand "technical" changes to software and systems.

This was the proposed wording in the Code of Practice accompanying the legislation:

CSPs subject to a technical capacity notice must notify the Government of new products and services in advance of their launch, in order to allow consideration of whether it is necessary and proportionate to require the CSP to provide a technical capability on the new service.

As per the final wording of the law, comms providers on the receiving end of a "technical capacity notice" will be obliged to do various things on demand for government snoops – such as disclosing details of any system upgrades and removing "electronic protection" on encrypted communications.

Thus, by "technical capability," the government really means backdoors and deliberate security weaknesses so citizens' encrypted online activities can be intercepted, deciphered and monitored.

In effect, the UK government has written into law a version of the much-derided Burr-Feinstein Bill proposed in the US, which would have undermined encryption in America. A backlash derailed that draft law.

No such backlash happened in the UK over the Investigatory Powers Bill, though, and so here we are. Web browser histories logged by ISPs 24/7, and the looming possibility of crippled cryptography. There may be not much point using a VPN to conceal your web activities if it can be blown open by a technical capability notice.

To be fair, there were some fears that Blighty's law would effectively kill off the UK software industry as well as undermine Brits' privacy, and expose them to surveillance and hacking by criminals exploiting these mandatory backdoors. This mild panic did bring about some changes to the UK's Investigatory Powers Bill before it was passed.

The question is: were the changes sufficient?

The "anti-encryption" part of what is now UK law has moved from section 217 to sections 254-256 [PDF] and contains some additional safeguards. But those safeguards, as they often are, are largely a judgement call by a Secretary of State.

The wording is slightly improved in that by

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Old December 15th, 2016 #13
News Bot
Post U.K. passes Orwellian surveillance law - The Investigatory Powers Act

On November 29, 2016, a law was passed in the U.K. that dramatically expands the scope of domestic surveillance.

The Investigatory Powers Bill was approved by legislators and granted royal assent in a move that continues the transformation of the U.K. into a modern version of Orwell's ideal surveillance state.

The Investigatory Powers Bill both retroactively makes legal the spying exposed by Edward Snowden and grants sweeping powers of Internet data collection to police and government officials.

The new law was initially opposed by the Labour Party but due to internal party strife and a focus on Britain's exit from the EU, political attention and media coverage was shifted away from privacy concerns.

Political resistance soon crumbled under fairly weak concessions and it was largely ignored in the mainstream media. Now, as the UK again tightens the leash on its subjects, other nations may look to follow its example in controlling their populations.

But what changes does the law actually bring?

Internet service providers will be required to maintain 12 months of records on every customer that detail exactly which sites are visited when, for how long, what communications are sent and to whom as well as what applications are used on smartphones.

The government will provide funding to the companies to conduct this surveillance and retain the data. This "data retention notice", as it is called, will allow the browsing history to be both searchable and instantly accessible by police without the need for a warrant using a specialized search engine available to the government.

The government tried to defend the law by saying that it does not allow the tracking of webpages.

Instead, it tracks websites. So, whereas the records will report that an individual visited the BBC and stayed on the site for 30 minutes, it won't point to the specific article read.

But truly, the distinction is all but meaningless. For most people, so much of what we do and who we are is intimately tied to our online lives.

Imagine what can be done with full access to your browsing history. Police and government officials can view your web visits to find out your medical conditions, sexual interests, political beliefs and embarrassing habits.

The possibilities for blackmail and social control are virtually endless.

Through what is known as a "technical capability notice" the government can now demand that a tech company compromise the encryption of a customer and do so in secret and without the need for a warrant.

On the surface, this poses grave privacy concerns if it is now impossible to communicate privately over the web without fear of government snooping. But dig deeper and the danger is even greater.

If encryption is weakened for the British government, then it is also weakened against criminals and foreign actors as well.

Financial transactions, private medical data and personal information are all threatened by a State that believes it has the righ

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Old December 20th, 2016 #14
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Post The Entire Internet History of UK Citizens Now Viewable by Government Organizations Such as Police, Military, Taxes, Jobs and Pensions

The Investigatory Powers Bill forces internet providers to keep a full record of every site visited by each of its customers for over a year. Of course, government accounts are exempt from this Orwellian law.

This bill is not simply about notifying the government if a specific site has been visited, it is about listing every single site that has been visited by each citizen and when. This information will be made available to a very large range of government bodies. Of course, there’s the police, the military and the secret service but also others entities such as the Food Standards Agency and the Department for Work and Pensions.

Here’s a full list of the agencies allowed to search the browsing history of UK citizens.
Metropolitan Police Service
City of London Police
Police forces maintained under section 2 of the Police Act 1996
Police Service of Scotland
Police Service of Northern Ireland
British Transport Police
Ministry of Defence Police
Royal Navy Police
Royal Military Police
Royal Air Force Police
Security Service
Secret Intelligence Service
Ministry of Defence
Department of Health
Home Office
Ministry of Justice
National Crime Agency
HM Revenue & Customs
Department for Transport
Department for Work and Pensions
NHS trusts and foundation trusts in England that provide ambulance services
Common Services Agency for the Scottish Health Service
Competition and Markets Authority
Criminal Cases Review Commission
Department for Communities in Northern Ireland
Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland
Department of Justice in Northern Ireland
Financial Conduct Authority
Fire and rescue authorities under the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004
Food Standards Agency
Food Standards Scotland
Gambling Commission
Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority
Health and Safety Executive
Independent Police Complaints Commissioner
Information Commissioner
NHS Business Services Authority
Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Health and Social Care Trust
Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Board
Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Regional Business Services Organisation
Office of Communications
Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland
Police Investigations and Review Commissioner
Scottish Ambulance Service Board
Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission
Serious Fraud Office
Welsh Ambulance Services National Health Service Trust
Source: Belfast Telegraph, Your entire internet history to be viewable by PSNI, taxman, DWP and Food Standards Agency and other government bodies within weeks

Let’s face it, this law is custom made to create a climate of fear and paranoia in the UK. Studies have shown that government surveillance stops people from sharing controversial opinions online as it has a ‘chilling effect on democratic discourse’. Also, since people sometimes visit explicit websites and tend to google their most personal issues, they could easily be subjected to blackmail or other nefarious actions.

Will government officials be subjected to the same transparency? Nope. In fact, the only amendment politicians have submitted to the controversial bill is to stop MPs from being spied on.

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