A government that listens to your private calls, rather than your complaints.
On November 16th, the Conservative government successfully passed the controversial Investigatory Powers Bill, dubbed the Snoopers Charter by critics. The new powers within set a legal framework around the previously unlawful practices commonplace at GCHQ. These powers include the bugging of mobile devices, allowing authorities to listen in via a phone’s microphone, and monitoring a user’s GPS location. Alongside all this, the bulk collection and storage of each citizen’s internet history is also available on request by government bodies including even the Department for Work and Pensions. The bill also requires companies like Apple to hack into the devices of their own users upon request. Apple has openly fought against such requests in the past, most notably against the FBI in the San Bernardino case, and has since openly requested the UK government roll back on such aspects of the bill.
Despite widespread outcry against these invasive powers, any political opposition was muted at best. Labour demonstrated the unwavering resistance of a soggy napkin to the bill’s progress, abstaining from the vote. While the House of Lords, previously a hindrance to the Tories’ more draconian legislation, posed a similarly low hurdle. Amendments to the bill have done little to nothing to curtail the extreme powers contained within, instead opting to include protective rules for legislators. Essentially granting MPs added protections against the very powers they unleash upon the wider public. Public opposition has been less inept. A petition to repeal the proposed act now sits at over 200,000 signatures, double the necessary amount to require a parliamentary debate on the issue. Yet while a government response was issued, the Petitions Committee opted not to schedule any debate, instead pointing towards the numerous stages of debate given to the bill before it came into law.
The charter currently hangs like a haemorrhoid off the back end of the legislative pipe, a painful souvenir of all the shit the Tories have pushed through while the public eye rested elsewhere. With this new bill, May’s government have launched the most aggressive digital surveillance system to date, and in doing so set a dangerous precedent against privacy in the digital age.