Does this era spell the doom of Privacy ?



The Beginning

As most of us must have noticed by now, the Brexit referendum results came out a while back and it is supposedly going to happen within the span of next two or three years. And this announcement set some wheels into motion wherein all sorts of analysts started commenting on the state of affairs this decision would put UK into once it is formally done. Speculations had already started by the time the referendum had been declared so it wasn’t a shock either to see how the discussions caught speed. Everywhere discussions were on regarding various political, economic and social effects of this decision on UK and the world economies. Heck they even updated the wiki page informing everyone about the effects, which was a wise idea indeed looking at how many people in today’s times are totally dependant on the wiki  for a lot of stuff. The biggest news that probably came out of this rigmarole was that David Cameron resigned. Now, we admit to it the fact that he was a less than perfect Prime Minister, but that decision came pretty quickly. But what surprised me even more was the person who was nominated to take his place – the Home Minister madam Theresa May. Just out of curiosity, we investigated about her policies just a little bit and this is what we found

Her Policies 

Reading about her one comes to know that she has implemented lots of policies for the welfare and betterment of the British society. To understand more regarding these policies definitely view this article.

Snooping, policing, immigration and drugs: Theresa May’s controversial Home Office legacy

But among all these policies,  the one that caught our attention like nothing else was this – a policy on snooping. Also infamously know as the Snooper’s Charter, originally named as the Investigatory Powers Bill , following are some of the pointers of this bill :

  • It introduces new powers for UK intelligence agencies and law enforcement, as well as restate existing ones, for targeted interception of communications, bulk collection of communications data, and bulk interception of communications. (Basically bulk collection of data first priority and targeting second).
  • It creates an Investigatory Powers Commission (IPC) to oversee the use of all investigatory powers, alongside the existing oversight provided by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament and the Investigatory Powers Tribunal. (Basically like NSA which hails from America and does all the snooping for the government and whose activities were exposed by the whistleblower)
  • It establishes a requirement for a judge serving on the IPC to review warrants for accessing the content of communications and equipment interference authorised by a Secretary of State before they come into force. ( Thats a good one. Felt like they already do that, don’t they?)
  • require communication service providers (CSPs) to retain UK internet users’ “Internet connection records” – which websites were visited but not the particular pages and not the full browsing history – for one year.
  • allow police and intelligence officers to see the Internet connection records, as part of a targeted and filtered investigation, without a warrant. ( Withour a warrant – words worth noting)
  • permit the police and intelligence agencies to carry out targeted equipment interference, that is, hacking into computers or devices to access their data, and bulk equipment interference for national security matters related to foreign investigations. (Matters that threaten National Security as defined by the government)
  • place a legal obligation on CSPs to assist with targeted interception of data, communications and equipment interference in relation to an investigation; foreign companies will not be required to engage in bulk collection of data or communications.
  • maintain an existing requirement on CSPs in the UK to have the ability to remove encryption applied by the CSP; foreign companies will not be required to remove encryption.
  • Put the Wilson Doctrine on a statutory footing for the first time as well as safeguards for other sensitive professions such as journalists, lawyers and doctors. (Basically no snooping on the politicians. Professionals – maybe or maybe not. See what they did there?)
  • provide local government with some investigatory powers, for example to investigate someone fraudulently claiming benefits, but not access to Internet connection records;
  • create a new criminal offence for unlawfully accessing internet data;[10]
  • create a new criminal offence for a CSP or someone who works for a CSP to reveal that data has been requested.

Well, now we know exactly how this bill once it becomes a law will change so many things about the gvernment collecting information from every person in  the country. This is what brought up a question – Is this era really the end of privacy?

Doomsday for Technological Privacy

The one incident that very rightfully highlighted this issue of privacy was the Edward Snowden whistleblowing incident when Snowden came out with such a lot of information about how the NSA had programs in place to monitor nearabout everything US citizens were doing online. And now, looking at the way governments all over the world continue  enacting laws which are collecting, storing and mining user data they obtain from large Tech corporations, we as end users have absolutely no idea what our data is being used for – Building a citizen profile? Keeping a watch over us? Investigating us ? And besides this, what about the privacy policies of corporations like Google, Microsoft, etc.? Are they only there to be transgressed by the governments for their own investigation purposes?

Looking at how fast technology is transforming our lives and how personal our tech gadgets are becoming because of the IoT and cloud infrastructure innovations that are happening, this issue looks even larger in a situation in which every device is connected to every other a house. The dependance on technology for simplifying human problems is already increasing and it is bound to grow over the coming years. Imagine the government knowing what you’ve been watching on your smart TV, what kind of coffee you just made from that new smart coffee machine and what kind of diet plans are you following recommended by your smart fridge. Basically, this profiling will be done without informing you and it will be ready to be handed over to any of the myriad investigative agencies out there as and when  It would be safe to assume that everyone would be  going all paranoid about it in a few years and pressing our governments to enact laws wich would protect the privacy of their citizens instead of those which allow them to snoop over every citizen in the country with the hopes that this will help them to keep the citizens ‘safe’. We don’t want to give a dystopian view of a technological revolution that is  improving humanity, but this concern is a genuine one and voicing it out is of utmost importance for the coming generations to come.

What the government wants is something they never had before. They want total awareness. The question is, is that something we should be allowing?                   – Edward Snowden


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