The UK Parliament has passed a terrifying new surveillance law that will let the government access the web browsing history of anyone in the country.
The so-called “Snoopers' Charter” (whose actual name is the Investigatory Powers Bill) was introduced by the UK’s Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party, Theresa May, before she took office. It will require internet service providers to save the browsing history of every single user for a year. That information will be stored in databases accessible by legal authorities ranging from police officers to tax inspectors—without a warrant.
The law also allows British spies to hack devices and collect bulk online data from not only the UK, but other countries, too. Edward Snowden called it "the most extreme surveillance law in the history of western democracy."
The Associated Press reports that UK internet providers are concerned about a specific provision of the law that could require them to remove encryption. This move would let spies access data more easily, but could also make online services, including banking and shopping, more vulnerable.
Despite concerns about privacy and potential civil liberty abuses, the bill was met with relatively little protest. Members of the UK’s Labour Party and its leader Jeremy Corbyn have received criticism that they did not oppose the bill strongly enough (especially in light of the fact that the UK government has spied on Corbyn and other politicians before).
Nevertheless, there were vocal opponents to the bill. Julian Huppert, a former Liberal Democrat lawmaker who opposed the bill, told the AP it "creates a very intrusive database."
"People may have been to the Depression Alliance website, or a marriage guidance website, or an abortion provider's website, or all sorts of things which are very personal and private," he said.
This kind of private information about innocent citizens will be open to leaks and hacks, many warn, and at the very least sets a dangerous precedent for how a democratic government can be allowed to monitor its citizens.