UK Home Secretary defends Internet surveillance bill

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By Larry Banks

Tech companies and those concerned about privacy online are joining forces to speak out against the UK’s new surveillance bill. But the Home Secretary, Theresa May, claims there is no reason to worry.

In a letter obtained by The Times, May says the Investigatory Powers Bill won’t be used simply for spying on the country’s citizens. Instead, it will help it track down online bullies and trolls.

She also said that cyberbullying is a “pernicious” issue and wrote: “Internet connection records would update the capability of law enforcement in a criminal investigation to determine the sender and recipient of a communication, for example, a malicious message such as those exchanged in cyberbullying”.

The Times says May was responding in the letter to a question from a parliament member – James Cartlidge – who says the bill is about much more than “terrorism or hacking into bank accounts”. He also added that online bullying and trolling incidents are “nasty, psychological attacks that particularly affect young people”.

Even though the proposed bill (sometimes called the Snooper’s Charter) would indeed help trace cyberbullies, it would also allow collection of enough information for surveillance of the entire country. If it’s passed, the bill will also require Internet Service Providers to keep a record of every website visited by customers for up to a year. The record would include the URL of websites they visit, plus the time and IP addresses of other computers they are in contact with.

However, opponents of the bill no doubt see May’s comments as an attempt to disguise the bill as a more noble cause to protect young people. May’s letter doesn’t of course address the privacy issues the bill will invoke. And last week Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote an open letter speaking out against the proposed legislation. He said the bill’s weakening of encryption as a problem, as well as the fact that law enforcement will be able to hack into user devices (with a warrant). The committee looking into the Investigatory Powers Bill is currently reviewing comments (including Cook’s) and will follow up with a response in February 2016.

SOURCE: The Verge.

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