The Investigatory Powers Bill

What Is It?

The Investigatory Powers Bill is a UK bill that will:

  • Place a new legal obligation on companies to assist in these operations to bypass encryption. [4]
  • force internet companies to store their users' browsing data for a year.[1]. This information will be available for access by police, security services and other public bodies [4].
  • allow the government to force phone makers to hack into people’s handsets. [1].
  • force Internet and phone companies to be required to maintain "permanent capabilities" to intercept and collect the personal data passing over their networks. They will also be under a wider power to assist the security services and the police in the interests of national security. [4]
  • Make explicit into law for the first time security services’ powers for the bulk collection of large volumes of personal communications data. [4]
  • Replace the existing system of three oversight commissioners with a single investigatory powers commissioner who will be a senior judge. [4].
  • Prime minister to be consulted in all cases involving interception of MPs’ communications. [4]. One rule for them, another for us.

Status

You can view the status of the bill on the Government website. At the time of writing this post, the bill has passed both the House of Parliament and the House of Lords and is just waiting for Royal Assent, in which the Queen formally agrees to make the bill into an Act of Parliament (law).

The Independent also has a "topic page" dedicated to news stories about the Investigatory Powers Bill.

What Can I Do

Below are the steps you can take in order of what you can do right away to protect your own privacy, down to trying to get this law will go away.

Use A VPN Outside the UK

Deploy your own VPN in another country, such as Germany or Sweden and make sure it's always on. This should only cost you about 5 USD per month if you use someone like DigitalOcean, Vultr, or Scaleway (all of which I have used or am currently using).

For non tech-savvy people, you could pay a provider such as Tunnelbear, VyperVPN, Mullvad, etc. Different providers will be better than others in terms of anonymity and bandwidth. I particularly like Mullvad because you can pay in Bitcoin and the accounts can be completely annonymous. You sign in with just an ID number and an email address.

Don't Use Your Phone So Much

This is pretty self-explanatory. Try not to use your smartphone so much for everything. Just assume that all data on there and everything being sent through it, even your voice when not on a call, is being recorded. How do you think "Okay Google" works?

Use GPG Encryption With Your Own Keys

Start generating your own GPG keys and use them to encrypt your sensitive data and send encrypted emails. I find that the enigmail addon for Thunderbird is the easiest method, but you can use other tools such as Mailvelope which integrates with chrome and Gmail easily.

Encrypting Files Without GPG

For those that feel that GPG is a step beyond them, they can use tools such as 7zip to encrypt files with a password before attaching them to an email for sending. Just make sure to use another form of communication to tell them the password, preferably in person.

Sign A Petition

You could sign the "Repeal the new Surveillance laws (Investigatory Powers Act)" petition. I became the 94,489th signature and it just needs 100,000 to be considered for a debate in parliament.

Support the EFF and Other Privacy Organizations

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was founded in 1990 and is the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. Their website is constantly being updated with news of current events.

References

  1. Independent - Investigatory Powers Bill: ‘Snoopers Charter 2’ to pass into law, giving Government sweeping spying powers
  2. Independent - Tens of thousands sign petition urging Parliament to recall 'most extreme spying powers ever'
  3. www.parliament.uk - Royal Assent
  4. Guardian - Investigatory powers bill: the key points
  5. Guardian - Investigatory powers bill not fit for purpose, say 200 senior lawyers
  6. Independent -Everyone who can now see your entire internet history, including the taxman, DWP and Food Standards Agency
  7. The Verge - How to avoid the UK’s new online surveillance powers

Author

Programster

Stuart is a software developer with a passion for Linux and open source projects.

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