The British government is set to sign in a controversial law which would make all internet service providers keep every website visited by their users and make it easily accessible to a range of agencies. You might be thinking “I thought that arrangement has always existed”. The difference is that a court order is required for the government to delve into an individual’s internet history. The difference is that this new law would make it easier for people from a range of government agencies to search for a name and view their browsing history.
The list of approved agencies includes the Police, Army, and other security related agencies. Interestingly,specific employees at the NHS, Food Standards Agency and Gambling Commission can also access browsing history just by typing in a person’s name. This begs the question: “Why is it necessary for such agencies to have access?” We must also consider that the official reason given for proposing this law is to “combat terrorism”. Judging by the lack of terrorist activity over the past few years, one might suggest that we are already doing a very good job of combatting terrorism.
Should the privacy of tens of millions of people be ripped open under the guise of combatting terrorism? That is a somewhat debatable question.
Notably, the internet is the one place where we are free to visit a range of legal sites and stay anonymous (if we wish) without fear of judgement or monitoring. Of course, if someone is accessing illegal material, then it is right that they are brought to justice. However, for a majority of people, this is simply not applicable.
The UK has more CCTV cameras than any another country in the world. In fact, there is a CCTV for every 11 people. The same surveillance is set to be brought to the internet. My fear is that this is the first step to a much bigger “crack down” on the way people browse the web and the websites we have access to.
At this moment in time, it is fairly straightforward for a website to be put on a blocked list due to copyright, illegal content etc. Arguably, some of the websites on the blocked list shouldn’t be there.
Some people are concerned that people would be stopped from viewing material which goes against the establishment. Moreover, we might begin to live under fear of accessing certain, legal material due to fear of what the person peering through our web history would think of us.
Moreover, it might open up a new form of blackmail and sabotage. For instance, someone could intentionally visit specific websites on their computer in order to put them in trouble with the authorities. Furthermore, all of that information would be a keen point of attack for hackers. The browsing history of every UK inhabitant in one place- indexed and easily searchable. Interestingly, MPs and other people working in the government would be exempt from the new law.
Notably, you can legally make it practically impossible for your browsing history to be viewable by using a VPN. This scrambles any inward and outward connections.
This news is likely to be divisive. On one hand, some might argue that “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, you have nothing to be worried about.” On the other hand, some might argue that this is the first step to a range of all encompassing surveillance laws in order to help combat terrorism.
What do you think about this news? Is it a good thing or do you think that we should free to browse legal sites without fear of monitoring or worry about who is able to access our browsing history at anytime? Feel free to share your thoughts with the rest of the community in the comments section below.