Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

U.K. House of Commons Passes Mass Surveillance Bill

Jeremy Kahn, Bloomberg:

The U.K. House of Commons on Tuesday passed a controversial bill giving spy agencies the power to engage in bulk surveillance and computer hacking.

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Many of the surveillance techniques — such as scooping up the metadata of communications and using malware to gain access to the computers and mobile phones of terrorism suspects — have already been in use by U.K. spy agencies and the law now gives them explicit authority.

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The bill states that the government will likely reimburse communications companies, including mobile operators, for the cost of complying with the new legal obligations, such as the requirement to retain records of all the websites its customers visit for at least a year.

While this is generally not any more invasive than what British intelligence agencies have been doing for years, the legitimization of their actions is deeply concerning. It retroactively protects their previously-illegal actions. Worse still, laws like this one are rarely undone.

This legislation must next pass the House of Lords, who only have the power to amend or suggest revisions to it; they cannot refuse it outright. Assuming there are no delays, it will go into effect early next year.