GPWA Times Magazine - Issue 37 - February 2017

Well, the U.K. just made itself your mother. In November 2016, the House of Lords passed the Investigatory Powers Act, a bill that will strong-arm internet companies into keeping records of their users’ activi- ty for up to a year, including information on the apps they’ve used on their phone and their phone call metadata. If that wasn’t horrifying enough, the govern- ment will also be able to request those companies hack into devices they’ve sold so a little spying can be done — on you . There’s no way to opt out of this data collection, and even people who aren’t suspected of any wrongdoing may be subject to surveillance. Essentially, it gives the U.K. spying powers that sound like something out of a dystopian TV series. (Democracy? What’s that?) This is particularly worrying for people whose income relies on the Internet, such as (guess who?) affiliates. Think of all the metadata you’ve racked up on your mobile phone, and all the communications you’ve had with players, operators or other affili- ates via e-mail. That’s all available to over 48 authorities in the U.K. If you who live outside the U.K. think you’re off the hook, consider the implications of bulk hacking, a process by which a number of devices in an area where terrorism is suspected may be accessed. Think of all the data being scooped up – it could be yours. (This sort of hack requires a warrant, thankfully.) But – hold on. Can’t we stop this crazy train? Unfortunately, we’re too far down the track: The bill received Royal Assent on 29 November 2016 and is working on coming into full force as you read this in 2017. Even a few Members and Lords of Parliament, who have been saying since February 2016 that the reach of the bill isn’t justified, weren’t enough to put a stop to it. So who will be able to request your data? Branches of the police, the military and the secret service may do so – that much is expected, if unpleasant. But there are quite a few other organizations who can take a peek at your history, such as the British Transport Police, the Food Stan- dards Agency and our good friend the U.K. Gambling Commission. A few other choice authorities who may access your information without a warrant, as listed in the bill, include: • Department of Health • Department of Transport • Competition and Markets Authority • Independent Police Complaints Com- missioner (particularly scary, as this is the public body in charge of fielding complaints against police) • Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs • Police Ombudsman for Northern Ire- land (another public body intended to parse police-related complaints) • Royal Navy Police And that is far from the complete list. May as well give the CEO of the local fast food chain access while we’re at it. Officials and government bodies have justified this bill by saying that protect- ing the people in times of duress is of the utmost importance. But is the cost of personal privacy and secure com- munication worth it? The fact that this bill passed with nary a peep from the general population is cause for concern, in our opinion. Will this empower other countries to take similar terrifying mea- sures, all for the so-called well-being of the people? Is this kind of power the new normal? wall of shame Parliament U.K. Remember when, back in the day, you lived in fear of your mother discovering your internet browsing history? UK flag image by nazlisart/Shutterstock 72 w w w . g p w a t i m e s . o r g