Roger Mallett [Staff Author]
As promised earlier in the year, the Conservative government is granting British spy agencies explicit rights to hack into smartphones and computers. Set to be introduced by Parliament next month, the forthcoming Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) will provide a legal basis for intelligence agencies to hack into computerised systems throughout the U.K.
Own a smartphone? Ever buy things online? Use social networks? Chances are that your data has passed through U.K. Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) surveillance programmes — particularly if you are a foreign national.
According to the Independent, spy agencies will be able to take over a phone remotely and install software that has the ability to examine your data at any time. Rushed through Parliament in July 2014, the new bill enables the Home Secretary to order communication companies to retain emails, calls, texts, and web activity of everyone in the U.K. for 12 months. Similar powers could also be used to target other databases, such as medical, travel, and financial records — including the records of those whose communications are deemed confidential, such as doctors, lawyers, journalists, and MPs.
The forthcoming bill comes as no surprise to activists who have long condemned the British government’s mass surveillance techniques exposed by Edward Snowden.
Privacy International has taken British spy agencies to court over bulk data-harvesting. Earlier this year, Deputy Director Eric King, said: “Secretly ordering companies to hand over their records in bulk, to be data-mined at will, without independent sign off or oversight, is a loophole in the law the size of a double-decker bus.”
He added, “Bulk collection of data about millions of people who have no ties to terrorism, nor suspected of any crime is plainly wrong. That our government admits most of those in the databases are ‘unlikely to be of intelligence value’ but that the practice has been allowed to continue, shows just how off course we really are.”
During a recent interview with Amnesty International, whistleblower Edward Snowden was asked what he would say to those who say they have nothing to hide and mass surveillance doesn’t matter: