UK Spares no Money for Monitoring Internet Communications
The Home Office will have no limitations on the money it gets to implement plans to monitor Internet communications, according to a report in PCPro Mag. The Communications Data Bill could cost as much as £2 million, according to the article, and the Home Office will have access to that money if they need it to get at user data.
The new powers given to the UK government are being sold with familiar arguments. The state is claiming the need to monitor Internet communications to “fight crime”, according to the article. Critics maintain that the potential for these powers to be abused is simply too great to be tolerated. The bill would require ISPs to retain data and to turn it over to the police on request. No warrant is required under this law. The data can be demanded as long as senior officers clear the request.
The UK already has laws in place that are much more intrusive than those in the US. Some websites—notably the notorious pirate site ThePirateBay.se—are already officially blocked by ISPs. Similar measures have been attempted in the US. The last two big measures to almost make their way through the US Senate and House of Representatives resulted in an Internet protest that saw some of the largest and most trafficked sites in the world shutter their virtual windows for the day, resulting in the bills being abandoned. This was not the case in the UK, however.
An article in The Guardian details that, officially, law enforcement agencies will not be able to read the contents of emails, cellular telephone calls or text messages without the appropriate warrants. The article goes on to say that logs of who an individual communicated with and when will be available under the law.
The reason behind this new power, according to the Guardian report, is that ISPs no longer have access to all of the data that their customers generate. Social media sites are mentioned as specific examples of this.
For users who do worry that they may be unjustly tracked—or who simply find this sort of broad surveillance insufferable—VPN services provide a solution. They encrypt data so that it cannot be intercepted in transit. These services are not designed to accommodate illegal activity and the best providers specifically prohibit as much. What they do is provide a barrier between snoops and your data stream, which may be more important to UK Internet users in the near future.