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Britain Has Passed the 'Most Extreme Surveillance Law Ever Passed in a Democracy' ( 359

Zack Whittaker, reporting for ZDNet: The UK has just passed a massive expansion in surveillance powers, which critics have called "terrifying" and "dangerous." 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. Four years and a general election later -- May is now prime minister -- the bill was finalized and passed on Wednesday by both parliamentary houses. Civil liberties groups have long criticized the bill, with some arguing that the law will let the UK government "document everything we do online." It's no wonder, because it basically does. 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. In other words, it's the "most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy," according to Jim Killock, director of the Open Rights Group.
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Britain Has Passed the 'Most Extreme Surveillance Law Ever Passed in a Democracy'

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  • Truly despicable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Thursday November 17, 2016 @12:08PM (#53305825)

    Truly despicable! I understand WHY they're doing it, but it's still wrong.

    The only good thing is, at least they're letting you know ahead of time they're violating your privacy. (not that that is much of a prize).

    • by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Thursday November 17, 2016 @12:27PM (#53306047)
      British amateurs think that a government needs the law on their side to spy on its citizens.
    • Re:Truly despicable (Score:4, Informative)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Thursday November 17, 2016 @12:27PM (#53306051) Homepage Journal

      Anyone in the UK should take steps to protect themselves. One of the most effective techniques is to use a VPN service. They are cheap, a basic but good one like Mullvad one can be had for under a fiver. The VPN service encrypts and routes traffic out of the country, preventing your ISP from logging your web history, emails, app use and the like.

      Beyond that, avoid services based in the UK as they are vulnerable. Use services from other countries.

      While GCHQ can most likely decrypt or bypass these protections, it requires considerable effort and thus prevents bulk data collection and storage.

      • I would suggest making sure it's a VPN with a certificate you can verify through an independent channel. It'd be easy for GHCQ to intercept a PPTP vpn channel and implement a MITM attack. OpenVPN would be a lot more effort.

        • by fnj ( 64210 )

          They can also just corrupt and subvert the operators of the VPN. Or the VPN you choose may be a covert operation from the git-go. The only thoughts that are truly guaranteed to remain secret are those which are never communicated outside of one's own brain (how confident are you that you never talk in your sleep?).

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      If people don't like it, they could go to a higher court, like Strassbourg. Oh, wait ...

    • I can also understand why they're doing it. It's the response of the plutocrats to the threat as formulated by Nick Hanauer []. It's about avoiding the backlash of runaway inequality.

      And if it's not entirely their response, it will soon be.

  • by captaindomon ( 870655 ) on Thursday November 17, 2016 @12:12PM (#53305859)
    Nice to have the focus off the United States every once in a while. USA! USA!
  • by Lord Kano ( 13027 ) on Thursday November 17, 2016 @12:16PM (#53305913) Homepage Journal

    During the Bush administration, I used to remind people of the dangers of giving too much power to the executive branch by reminding them that one day, another "Clinton" will have control.

    During the Obama administration, I reminded people that one day, another "Bush" will have control.

    Eventually, I'll remind people that another "Obama" or "Trump" will have control.

    Never give anyone, even your allies, the kind of power you would fear in the hands of your enemies.


    • by bazorg ( 911295 )

      In this case, the Conservative party can have a reasonable expectation to remain in power for a long time, especially if leaving the EU causes Scotland to abandon the union. Scotland represents some 10% of the population and regularly vote everyone-but-Theresa-May's-party.

      For those interested in evil genius accomplishments and Bond-style villains, it's a good time to point out that with the chaos and paralysis that followed the recent referendum, Theresa May eventually got the law she had wanted for a long

      • The Conservative government, during this term, will pass boundary changes [] which are not blatant gerrymandering but do look like ensuring a multiple term Conservative government regardless of anything else that happens. The graph in the article nicely illustrates how irrelevant the Scotland, Wales and NI vote actually is despite what some (invariably Conservative supporting) people in England think.

    • by CODiNE ( 27417 ) on Thursday November 17, 2016 @01:23PM (#53306711) Homepage

      The problem with that argument (and I agree with your point), is that both sides believe people are waking up from the lies of the other. They both see history as being on their side, and their position as the inevitable conclusion. Why fear the future? "We've won!"

      If you're a nice approachable person, many people will assume you'd agree with them on politics, simply because you seem sane and decent. They absolutely cannot understand how anyone could agree with the other side unless they're stupid or evil.

      While your point makes a lot of sense to a rational actor, in politics very few are.

      • by khallow ( 566160 )
        When they get repeatedly burned by Trumps and Obamas, maybe they'll figure it out. I'm not very hopeful, but at least it's an easy argument to make these days.
  • ... democracy.

    Some people would say that laws like this mean you've forfeited the right to call yourself a democracy.

    Others define democracy to mean only how you elect your leaders (although all but the purists typically include republics in the definition), not whether you have freedom of speech, etc. With that definition, there have probably been other "democracies" with far more draconian laws.

  • after your privacy and defends it. But hey, at least they took back control!
  • Britain a Democracy? I don't think so.

    In the immortal words of Inigo Montoya "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

    There needs to be a rule that every time someone going on about our governments being Democracies just needs to slapped like the retarded child that they are.

    • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

      As a Brit I've long suspected that in the UK at least, the ritual of elections is kept up just for appearances sake, and that its actually just an illusion of Democracy solely designed to keep the people placated.
      It appears that was also the intended purpose of the Brexit referendum, until it totally backfired on the then-government plans.
      I'd be VERY surprised if the beureaucrats in Whitehall aren't now taking the view that they learnt their lesson well and will no longer be trusting the people to make any

      • Well it didn't help that the leave side was promising the world and people were buying it. Especially all the money that was to go to the NHS and the farmers. The day after the election it was "What money?"

        At least the UK can run a proper election. Not hearing about it for years ahead of time, not changing the rules on who can vote, not hearing about chads or electronic voter machine fraud.

      • Got yourself a public school education did you?
    • People like to argue "We're not a Democracy!" on this side of the pond too. They are wrong.

      Democracy isn't a strict term with a single definition, but rather a master set of associated governing styles, of which includes representative governments like the US and the UK. Representatives don't listen to and act on behalf of their voters as a courtesy, it's their job. They have to bend to the public will in order to keep their job. While this isn't always true - thanks to gerrymandering and other such schemes

  • by Coisiche ( 2000870 ) on Thursday November 17, 2016 @12:39PM (#53306189)

    The news suppression must be in force.

    No mention of it on the BBC website, but that's frequently the case if the government want something suppressed, the BBC is not the impartial news service that some people outside the UK think it is.

    What's more annoying is that it has no mention of this on the bills before parliament site which shows the last action as Lords bouncing back to Commons [].

    But even if it's not actually law yet, it's going to be soon. There are just formalities left.

  • Yes, that's what you get when you let your own gov't padlock the rigid mitts over your hands. The only people I feel sorry for here are the children whose parents delivered them into this nightmare.
  • by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Thursday November 17, 2016 @01:26PM (#53306761)

    This is just formalizing and bringing out into the open what has already actually been happening in secret for years.

    My only concern is given what happens in secret is often beyond the law, if the law itself is beyond the edge of decency, how bad can/will the secret stuff become?

  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <> on Thursday November 17, 2016 @01:28PM (#53306779)

    Seriously, we all know it's coming.

    Eastern Europe, Erdogan, Putin, Le Pen, Frauke Petry, Donald Trump ... these are special effects, smoke & mirrors.
    The real action happens when laws like this get passed or Tim Cook and his Silicon Valley Bros push for everything-as-a-service / 'ecosystem' and proprietary payment systems instead of cash.

    You can read it in Aldous Huxleys work, and in William Gibsons and Neal Stephensons.

    We are moving into an all-out full-blown cyperpunk society where anyone halfway free from 'the system' is a potential suspect or locked out of essential basics , only able to acquire them by semi-legal / grey-market means. A world where *everything* has a price-tag and you can't move without Big Brother watching you.

    Tamper-free FOSS IT systems are becoming more and more exotic a concept while the brainwashed masses think Fakebook or Twotter is some sort of innovation over other services we've had for decades.

    Basically we're smack in the middle of a cyberpunk society already.

  • The basic trick you can use (something which took me at most a couple of hours on a lazy afternoon to knock out off the top of my head -- easy or any CS student) is to have a MySQL table somewhere, with a simple schema of { int insertTime, char[32] key, string value }. The keys are produced by hashing a string of some sort, and the values are produced by encrypting using some password used by a related hashing method. Essentially you take a string 'HexVision' and salt it in two different ways. All table row

  • George Orwell would be proud of himself for his predictions.
  • The "Investigatory Powers Bill" is not quite as bad as the "Communications Data Bill" that was shot down, this one passed by a huge majority:

    In March 2016, the House of Commons passed the second reading of the Investigatory Powers Bill on a 281 to 15 vote, moving the bill to the committee stage.

    Wasn't exactly surprising the House of Lords passed it too, almost as much a formality as the Queen's Royal Assent.

  • The law will force internet providers to record every internet customer's top-level web history in real-time for up to a year

    That is a lot of data the ISPs will have to store. I assume they're going to store logs from their DNS servers, for every little DNS request.

  • Overload it. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Pig Hogger ( 10379 ) <> on Thursday November 17, 2016 @02:16PM (#53307491) Journal
    Get a program that will load a thousand random websites every hour. When millions of subscribers will each load 24000 websites every day, the storage will quickly overflow, and if the ISPs feel the pain, they are better placed than John Q. Public to effect pressure on the government.
  • by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Thursday November 17, 2016 @09:13PM (#53311155) Journal
    Expect every IM, website, and social media post to be readable with an ip and account details in real time by teams of in house SJW, NGO's and gov/mil staff.
    So all freedom of speech is gone from any UK isp account with a UK ip.
    Tempora [] "gain access to large amounts of Internet users' personal data, without any individual suspicion or targeting."
    Once noticed, expect computer entry. The gov and mil will enter and alter your computer, network or any other device.
    Expect that device to report all movements if your in the media or in contact with the media.
    Whistleblowers reaching out to the traditional media won't get beyond the first call or meeting.
    What can the press and media do?
    Create a series of devices and fill them with fiction. Reports, searches, contacts. Use any UK isp for searches for amazing new stories with background help from informants and insiders. Sock puppet contacts with details of meetings. Walk, drive out for such meetings so gps and other tracking can collect. Select a good location to meet "someone" handing over vast amounts of data.
    Then do days of background research with as much jargon, mil, science and party political terms as possible.
    Flood the digital collection system with a lot of work related fiction everyday in plain text. Any real contact would be without an electronic devices, away from CCTV. Any phone been given to a friend to walk around with and handed back later. Buy a typewriter. Create your own secure shorthand for paper notes. Learn about one time pads. Once a story is ready, publish early, fully and often. Expect all networks and digital files to be searched. So have a lot of digital fiction ready :)
    The UK gov and mil hope that a lot of new SJW, gov staff and volunteers can cover an entire nation of networked users. Physical access to a site will be rare as such teams of contractors are so expensive and might be reported or seen. Buying any new computer or network device with a CC or online is a risk if working in the media. Expect upgrades as delivered. Use and buy any such devices for fictional creativity.
    VPN and onion routing are not much use for the media given the public court reporting about online tracking at a now low cost per case.

    Democracy and public interaction and the fear of been reported will be very chilling for democracy.
    The other real issue will be for the reader comments in the UK. Expect SJW reporting to gov and teams of gov staff looking over any and all comments.
    A good VPN well outside 5 eye nations or the EU might still allow freedom of speech until the comment is removed or comments get turned off.
    Credit card use on a VPN would also be an issue.

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." -- Howard Aiken