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Free Minds & Free Markets

Big Brother in the U.K.

The Snooper's Charter becomes law, allowing even more domestic surveillance.

The United Kingdom's Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority is not part of an agency tasked with fighting terrorism. It's a licensing body that "regulates businesses who provide workers to the fresh produce supply chain and horticulture industry, to make sure they meet the employment standards required by law," according to its mission statement.

Nevertheless, under a new mass surveillance law, high-ranking officials in this agency will have as much access to the private internet information of British citizens as agencies that actually do fight terrorism. So will officials in the U.K.'s Department of Health, its Food Standards Agency, and its Gambling Commission, along with dozens of other government bodies.

This is the outcome of the recent passage of the Investigatory Powers Act, also known by critics as the Snooper's Charter. The surveillance bill was hammered out after whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that several Western governments were spying on their own citizens. The U.K.'s response was to codify mass surveillance into law rather than to scale it back.

Initially crafted in 2013, the law was pushed hard by Theresa May when she was Secretary of State for the Home Department (the U.K.'s national security and policing oversight office). Back then, Parliament resisted it due to the broadness of surveillance powers it granted. In the wake of the successful Brexit vote and resignation of former Prime Minister David Cameron in July, however, May took the helm of the government, and the Act followed her into power. The bill passed both houses of the British Parliament and was approved by the queen in November. It became law at the start of 2017.

By requiring Internet Service Providers to keep all metadata and the basic web browsing histories of users for 12 months, the Investigatory Powers Act creates a trove of information accessible to many within the government.

May had defended the legislation by invoking the need to fight terrorism. She also told members of Parliament that since a judge has to approve an order to snoop on or hack into a computer, there are "robust and consistent safeguards" in place—no need to worry. But the over-300-page law allows top officials of myriad government agencies to demand access to private information to fight any sort of crime, not just terrorism. It also contains rules on how to get a warrant to access confidential information stored by journalists, including a reporter's sources. Meanwhile, it creates special protections for members of Parliament: Officials have to meet a higher bar before snooping on them.

Prior to the bill's passage, tech leaders and privacy activists argued with the Act's proponents over the right to encryption. Surveillance supporters wanted the authority to demand that companies like Apple and creators of messaging tools like WhatsApp build in secret "back doors" that would allow officials to snoop on suspects. Opponents replied by warning that there's no such thing as a back door that can only be accessed by authorized government representatives. Such encryption bypasses necessarily make people's information vulnerable to hackers.

After the massive bill passed, analysts combed through it to see what had really changed. The law doesn't formally "mandate" that smartphones and messaging services have back doors. But it does create a "technical capability notice" giving U.K. officials the authority to demand changes to these products. And one of the things they're allowed to demand is the removal, upon request, of any "electronic protection" concealing users' communications or data. This means that private companies could be forced to break their own encryption to help the government access data. The law even authorizes such demands to be made on tech companies based outside the country if they do business within the United Kingdom. What's more, it prohibits those companies from so much as informing their users about the government's request unless the authorities gives the OK.

After the Snooper's Charter passed, Snowden took to Twitter, pointedly calling it "the most extreme surveillance in the history of Western democracy. It goes farther than many autocracies."

Photo Credit: Joanna Andreasson

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  • American Memer||

    Generally the Archives get a lot fewer comments than HnR for whatever reason.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Trumpty Dumpty, He's quite off-the-wall,
    Trumpty Dumpty won't stay in His toilet stall
    He just goes ahead and takes His shits,
    Totally regardless of whereever He sits
    Whenever He simply, no way, can sleep,
    He Twits us His thoughts, they're all SOOO deep!
    He simply must, He MUST, Twit us His bird,
    No matter the words, however absurd!
    He sits and snorts His coke with a spoon,
    Then He brazenly shoots us His moon!
    They say He'll be impeached by June,
    Man, oh man, June cannot come too soon!
    So He sits and jiggles His balls,
    Then He Twitters upon the walls
    "Some come here to sit and think,
    Some come here to shit and stink
    But I come here to scratch my balls,
    And read the writings on the walls
    Here I sit, My cheeks a-flexin'
    Giving birth to another Texan!
    He who writes these lines of wit,
    Wraps His Trump in little balls,
    He who reads these lines of wit,
    Eats those loser's balls of shit!"

  • XenoZooValentine||

    "She also told members of Parliament that since a judge has to approve an order to snoop on or hack into a computer, they can just rubber stamp everything after the fact — no need to worry."

    Fixed.

  • Hank Phillips||

    This law bodes well for the looter kleptocracy that counts the ballots in These States. Like Global Warming pseudoscientists who alter the record to make the past seem colder than the present, US agencies profit from foreign governments becoming more parasitical and coercive compared to "ours." The Brain Drain from Socialist England evidently wrought irreversible damage, judging by this snooping law and recent infiltration by Saracen berserker mysticism. Surely our own looters will try to avoid that gradient even if it means exporting looter prohibitionism to every point on the planet.

  • American Memer||

    You're not Agile Cyborg. Don't try to be.

  • Robert||

    You mean "to kill youse and youse response is".

  • James_R||

    Finally. After years of grassroots efforts; the majority of British voters were finally able to convince their hesitant and freedom loving members of parliament to strip away more of their privacy and give their hamstrung government more power over them. The people have spoken!

  • rudehost||

    The UK has really become a shit hole over the last couple decades. It is one place I had planned to visit but not sure I want to reward this kind of fuckwittery with my tourism dollars.

  • rudehost||

    The UK has really become a shit hole over the last couple decades. It is one place I had planned to visit but not sure I want to reward this kind of fuckwittery with my tourism dollars.

  • XenoZooValentine||

    "What has The Romans privacy ever done for us?" #Privexit

  • ||

    The UK has even jailed one of their own politicians for quoting a line from a Churchill speach.

  • XenoZooValentine||

    One wonders what they intend to do with any history books that include it.

  • Sevo||

    Where were these guy for the last eight years?

    "ABC reporter delivers pointed declaration to Trump: We will 'pursue the truth' even if we must endure your 'wrath'"
    [...]
    "But he said over the course of his brief tenure as president, Trump has "taken criticism of the media to another level."
    http://www.sfgate.com/technolo.....944195.php

    What bravery!
    What hypocrisy.....

  • Fatty Bolger||

    "The Donald Trump I knew as a young reporter was nothing if not media friendly. And for most of the past Republican primary, he was the most accessible major candidate. No one else was even close. At Thursday's press conference, we saw flashes of that. Seventeen reporters called on, many that he knew would ask tough questions," Karl said.

    But he said over the course of his brief tenure as president, Trump has "taken criticism of the media to another level."

    Trump doesn't hide from the media, and he encourages and answers tough questions. So basically, the complaint is that the media should be above criticism? At least Trump does it to their faces, instead of back channeling his "displeasure" the way previous administrations did.

  • XenoZooValentine||

    What daring, what outrageousness, what insolence, what arrogance!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-QCKv37_bI

    But, yeah. About a decade late to the party. (Counting the time they should have been fact-checking the candidate.)

  • Real Books||

    It's still called the UK? Not Airstrip One yet?

  • XenoZooValentine||

    We have always been at war with drug dealers pedophiles domestic terrorism international terrorism GamerGate sex traffickers Pepe the Frog fuck it, we don't even know anymore.

  • Jerryskids||

    One of the items in the bill of particulars known as the Declaration of Independence was the general warrants issued by the Crown whereby the King's Men could enter your house at any time and search for evidence of illegal activity. After the American Revolution the colonies eventually assembled under the Constitution, the Fourth Amendment of which says one of our basic human rights is to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, that a government official wishing to search your person, places or papers must have a warrant signed by a magistrate detailing where exactly they're going to search and what exactly they're looking for and it must have a probable cause statement as to why they have reason to believe they're going to find what they're looking for where they're going to look for it.*

    You'll note there wasn't a British Revolution. General warrants are apparently still an accepted thing in England, the Crown still has the right to search you anytime they please just to make sure you're not doing something you're not supposed to be doing.

  • Jerryskids||

    *I'm sure most judges don't realize it, but technically they are allowed to reject warrants that don't have a probable cause statement that passes the laugh test. They don't have to be a rubber stamp for the cops, they can actually act as an independent check on the cops' ability to abuse their authority by conducting unreasonable searches and seizures whenever they take a notion to. I know that sounds far-fetched, but you can look it up - judges actually have the power to reject warrant applications. And grand juries have the power to decline to return indictments for anybody the prosecutor wants to prosecute, too, believe it or not.

  • XenoZooValentine||

    I've wondered how there can be "no right to privacy" in the Constitution, as some people claim, when we have the Fourth Amendment. It protects against "unreasonable* search and seizure" but if the Founders intended no right to privacy, every search would be reasonable, so they wouldn't have bothered to prevent unreasonable ones.

    * DRINK!

  • Brochettaward||

    We have general warrants here, too, despite the Revolution.

  • Jerryskids||

    We also seem to have kings, and let's not get started on that whole "when in the course of human events" stuff because you aren't allowed to secede from the kingdom.

  • Chip Your Pets||

    To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to Britain's enemies, and pause to Britain's friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil.

  • XenoZooValentine||

    The only thing we have to fear is fear itself not being fearful enough.

  • Charles Easterly||

    The only thing we have to fear is fear itself not being fearful enough.

    Well done.

  • Sevo||

    Put 'em in gov't schools, they'll get indoctrinated early:

    "Student confesses to throwing wooden block at Trump's motorcade, authorities say"
    [...]
    "During the investigation, a student from a local middle school admitted to throwing the object at the motorcade; the student also implicated four other students, authorities said."

    I'm sure a middle-school kid has fully informed and considered political opinions arrived at independently after careful study of the issues, and they have not at all been influenced by the gov't-paid teachers.

  • XenoZooValentine||

    They even turned themselves in and informed on each other, so I'd say the early indoctrination is working pretty well.

  • Brochettaward||

    Is there a way to get the Reasonable extension working for Firefox?

  • greasonable||

    Why not Zoidberg greasonable?

  • esteve7||

    You think reason would have something for the 8 year fucking anniversary of the creation of the Tea Party

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEZB4taSEoA

    Such a beautiful moment. And fuck the press for their response (oh it's a mob etc)

  • Sevo||

    I think you're in the Bay Area.
    Several years back, while Obo was sitting more strongly on the economy, there was a political push in Richmond to have banks 'forgive' mortgages for those upside down. A lot of people pointed out that is was a great way to make sure no bank ever again wrote a mortgage for a Richmond property, but that wasn't the punch-line.
    Many of the houses had been occupied by the owners for well beyond 30 years, so it wasn't like they signed up for some 0-down mortgage. Nope, they had piggy-banked the thing until the pig was all eaten and now wanted us to buy them a new one.
    Fortunately for responsible Richmond dwellers, it died a quiet death.

  • Sevo||

    "Endangered Species Act may be heading for the threatened list"
    [...]
    "WASHINGTON - A Senate hearing to "modernize the Endangered Species Act" unfolded Wednesday just as supporters of the law had feared, with round after round of criticism from Republican lawmakers who said the federal effort to keep species from going extinct encroaches on states' rights, is unfair to landowners and stymies efforts by mining companies to extract resources and create jobs."
    http://www.sfgate.com/news/art.....935415.php

    I have no idea if the ESA was ever a good idea; species go extinct constantly for a variety of reasons, and I've yet to find anyone who could tell me why we've spent million of dollars keeping the prehistoric Condors alive other than 'I like them!!!!'
    Regardless, the headline is pure fake news; the story in no way suggests the act is to be repealed, merely that it is to be modified.
    Fucking lying news media...

  • VG Zaytsev||

    I wander if they've ever thought of where their hysteria is leading

    I mean a couple of years from now when the world has come to an end because of the republicans destruction of government, how are they going to oppose anything?

  • Longtobefree||

    Upon review, the endangered species act is unconstitutional under the first amendment. According to true science, species do come and go from time to time (Darwin). It is Christianity that gives man dominion over all the animals and plants. So the ESA establishes a religion.
    Off with their heads!

  • ||

    The UK has full on lost its mind.

  • Set Us Up The Chipper||

    Is it not Proggie Paradise now? I'm thinking that waves of butthurt celebs and other ProgTards will be moving to the UK really soon.

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