The UK is set to make spying on every person in Britain’s phone legal.
United Kingdom — As promised earlier in the year, the Conservative government is granting British spy agencies explicit rights to hack into smartphones and computers. Set to be introduced by Parliament next month, the forthcoming Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) will provide a legal basis for intelligence agencies to hack into computerised systems throughout the U.K.
Own a smartphone? Ever buy things online? Use social networks? Chances are that your data has passed through U.K. Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) surveillance programmes — particularly if you are a foreign national.
According to the Independent, spy agencies will be able to take over a phone remotely and install software that has the ability to examine your data at any time. Rushed through Parliament in July 2014, the new bill enables the Home Secretary to order communication companies to retain emails, calls, texts, and web activity of everyone in the U.K. for 12 months. Similar powers could also be used to target other databases, such as medical, travel, and financial records — including the records of those whose communications are deemed confidential, such as doctors, lawyers, journalists, and MPs.
Privacy International has taken British spy agencies to court over bulk data-harvesting. Earlier this year, Deputy Director Eric King, said: “Secretly ordering companies to hand over their records in bulk, to be data-mined at will, without independent sign off or oversight, is a loophole in the law the size of a double-decker bus.”
He added, “Bulk collection of data about millions of people who have no ties to terrorism, nor suspected of any crime is plainly wrong. That our government admits most of those in the databases are ‘unlikely to be of intelligence value’ but that the practice has been allowed to continue, shows just how off course we really are.”
During a recent interview with Amnesty International, whistleblower Edward Snowden was asked what he would say to those who say they have nothing to hide and mass surveillance doesn’t matter:
“It’s not about having nothing to hide, it’s about being you. It’s about being friends with who you want to be friends with, without worrying about what it looks like on paper or inside some private record in some dark government vault,” he said.
“It’s about realising there’s a reason we close the bathroom door. There’s a reason we don’t want the police to have a video camera where they can watch us while we’re sitting in the bubble bath. There’s a reason everybody gets so concerned about the Samsung TV that’s recording what you say in your living room, and then sending it to third parties. This is what you’re going to get. You’re not going to watch TV any more. TV is going to watch you.”
Asked if he had any regrets, he said he had one — that he should have come forward sooner.
“Had I done so, I think we would have a much greater degree of liberty in our online lives. Because the biggest challenge we face in reforming these surveillance programs is that, once the money has been spent, and once the practices have been institutionalized in secret, without the public knowing, it’s very difficult to change them,” he said.
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