Privacy groups are preparing to take on the Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Bill) in the courts, after slamming it as lacking in proportion and a providing the state with unnecessary powers to monitor citizens.
The IP Bill, better known as the Snoopers' Charter, was passed by the House of Lords last week following a final debate examining various amendments. It will therefore become law within weeks, legalising a number of secret service activities that were ruled unlawful only in October.
The law 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 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 IP Bill already received a tongue lashing from the Open Rights Group and Privacy International, which hit out at the bill as "intrusive and "draconian", and since human rights activists have spoken out in opposition of the soon-to-become-law.
"It defies common sense," said Silkie Carlo, policy officer at human rights organisation Liberty said to the LA Times. "We are very, very resolutely in opposition to mass surveillance, which can never be considered proportionate or necessary in a democracy."
Carlo said Liberty was "gearing up" for a fight and intends to mount a legal challenge, saying the bill is "ripe for challenging."
Liberty has launched a campaign, dubbed "No #SnoopersCharter", of which more than 8,000 people have already joined.
"The Home Secretary claims this will make us safer – it won’t. Mass surveillance is ineffective in preventing serious crime," the campaign website reads.
"Mass surveillance overwhelms our security services with irrelevant information on all of us, distracting them from finding the real criminals. The Government ignored the evidence that we need targeted, not total surveillance."
Renate Samson, chief executive of civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, echoed Carlo's remarks, saying that the bill keeps us less safe than ever.
"Encryption keeps us safe online. This bill weakens that," he said. "When a company has more than 10,000 users, the [British government] can ask them to build capacity to see what people are doing on there.
"Long term, with crime increasingly happening online, and cyber crime becoming more of an issue, the ability of any law to create vulnerability in the online world actually keeps us less safe."
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