The End of iMessage, Snapchat and WhatsApp?

What is the new “Draft Investigatory Powers Bill” and how does it affect you?

Written by Anthony Peries, edited by Victoria Jenner

Illustration: Henry Jermyne
Illustration: Henry Jermyne

The bill essentially has several components. It would give the police and intelligence agencies greater powers to intercept targeted communications, collect bulk communications data and large scale interceptions of data. It would also set up a commission, overseen by a parliamentary committee to ‘oversee’ the use of these powers; make it a legal requirement for your internet service provider to keep a record of your full browsing history for 12 months; allow the police and security services the power to see those records, for any individual, or group, without a warrant; place a legal obligation on your communication service provider to assist in accessing your communications; and make it illegal for anyone regardless of whether they worked for the police or intelligence services to access the data of Members of Parliament or Peers in the House of Lords.

According to the government and security experts, this would make the job of the police easier, by bringing powers up to date with modern technology. The police could more easily access peoples’ online communications in order to distinguish whether people were ‘up to no good’. For instance, having the accessibility to discover those planning terrorist acts or criminal activities, or viewing child pornography.

However, privacy lobbyists, human rights groups and civil liberties organisations all warn that this is a very dangerous threat to civil liberties. It basically gives the government the power to see anyone’s information, without any evidence at all. And there are fears that this practically boundless power would set us on a path towards becoming a “big brother” type surveillance state.

So, should you be afraid of this bill? Yes, and no. This bill would simply just make what the government is already doing legal, gchq has continued their acts of mass surveillance, which were brought to the world stage by Edward Snowden in 2013. If you should be afraid of anything, it’s the fact that the former Labour government, the coalition, and now the Conservative government have all participated in illegal mass surveillance of citizens… and there is no evidence they’re going to stop any time soon.