THE CONTROVERSIAL Snoopers' Charter, formally known as the Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Bill), will officially become British law.
The IP Bill was given royal assent on Tuesday, meaning that the government's sweeping surveillance rules will now pass into law in 2017.
The Bill, which was unveiled a year ago, will require internet and phone companies to store comprehensive records of websites visited and phone numbers called for 12 months, and to enable police, security services and multiple other public sector bodies, including the Department for Work and Pensions and the Food Standards Agency, to access those records on demand.
It will also provide the security services with the legal power to bulk collect personal communications data, and give police and security services the explicit power to hack into, and bug, computers and smartphones. These powers will largely require only the approval of the home secretary.
The Home Office is feeling very pleased with itself, and has lauded the new law a "landmark Bill which sets out and governs the powers available to the police, security and intelligence agencies to gather and access electronic communications".
It said in a statement, seen by the Independent, that it "brings together and updates existing powers while radically overhauling how they are authorised and overseen".
While the Home Office is a fan, hundreds of thousands have spoken out against the Bill. A petition calling for it to be repealed has hit more than 130,000 signatures, news that has gone down well with privacy campaigners at the Open Rights Group, which previously slammed the IP Bill as "draconian"
"The IP Bill was debated and passed while the public, media and politicians were preoccupied by Brexit," said ORG executive director Jim Killock, commenting on the racking up of signatures on the petition.
"Now that the Bill has passed, there is renewed concern about the extent of the powers that will be given to the police and security agencies. In particular, people appear to be worried about new powers that mean our web browsing activity can be collected by Internet Service Providers and viewed by the police and a whole range of government departments.
"Parliament may choose to ignore calls for a debate but this could undermine public confidence in these intrusive powers. A debate would also be an opportunity for MPs to discuss the implications of various court actions, which are likely to mean that the law will have to be amended."
Harmit Kambo, campaigns director at Privacy International, has also spoken out, saying that, while the government has made promises about how these new surveillance powers will be constrained, the passing of the IP Bill will inevitably see individuals' privacy rights eroded over time.
"As the IP Bill becomes law, the government continues to reassure us that their powers will be constrained by a robust legal framework and safeguards," Kambo said.
"More fundamentally, they have argued that it's OK for a mature democracy to have sweeping surveillance powers because a mature democracy has enough checks and balances to prevent state surveillance becoming about state power over all of us.
"But we will always argue that you don't pass laws based on what the government of today intends to do with those powers, but on how a very different government of tomorrow might use those same powers to go so much further." µ
So that's why she's smiling…
How many Zuckbucks to the pound?
Alexa, is this exploitation?