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Government to Expand Powers of UK Internet Snooping Law

Tuesday, Nov 7th, 2023 (2:42 pm) - Score 4,056
internet spying eye

The State Opening of Parliament, which is often referred to as the “King’s Speech” and sets out the UK Government’s agenda for the coming session, has revealed plans to amend and expand the still controversial 2016 Investigatory Powers Act (aka – “snoopers charter“). Expect deeper snooping of your online activity.

The original IPAct introduced, among many other things, a new power that forced broadband ISPs and mobile operators – upon being ordered to do so by a senior judge – into logging the Internet Connection Records (ICR) of all their customers for up to 12 months (e.g. the IP addresses of the servers you’ve visited and when), which can be accessed without a warrant and may occur regardless of whether or not you’re suspected of a crime.

NOTE: Obtaining the ‘content’ of a communication (i.e. the message you write) still required a warrant, but ICRs aren’t deemed to contain ‘content’.

However, the government has today argued that the “nature of the threats we face” has evolved since 2016, which means they need to ensure the UK’s investigatory powers framework remains fit-for-purpose and that we keep the powers available to our security and law enforcement agencies up to date with new technology.

At a time when threats to national security are changing rapidly due to new technology, my Ministers will give the security and intelligence services the powers they need and will strengthen independent judicial oversight,” said King Charles today. The new Investigatory Powers Bill (IP Bill) thus proposes a series of key changes, which we’ve summarised below.

Proposed Updates in the Investigatory Powers Bill

➤ Make changes to the bulk personal dataset regime to ensure the UK’s intelligence agencies can more effectively make use of less sensitive data, which is already widely available to the public, subject to appropriate safeguards.

➤ Expand the oversight regime to support the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to effectively carry out their role, including putting a number of their functions on a statutory basis. This will maintain the robust, transparent, and world-leading safeguards in the regime.

➤ Reform the notices regime, to help the UK anticipate the risk to public safety posed by the rolling out of technology by multinational companies that precludes lawful access to data. This will reduce the risk of the most serious offences such as child sexual exploitation and abuse or terrorism.

➤ Update the conditions for use of Internet Connections Records to ensure that these can be used effectively to detect the most serious types of criminal activity and national security threats, underpinned by a robust independent oversight regime.

➤ Increase the resilience of the warrantry authorisation processes to ensure the security and intelligence agencies, as well as the National Crime Agency, can always get lawful access to information in a timely way so that they can respond to the most serious national security and organised crime threats.

At the time of writing we haven’t yet seen much detail that helps to clarify what sort of “conditions” will change for the use of ICRs or what kind of “less sensitive data” the UK’s intelligence agencies will be able to harness. But the government notes that the existing law requires certain thresholds to be met to enable the use of ICRs, for example when an illicit website has been accessed and by whom. “This limits the ability of operational partners to use connection records to identify and locate offenders,” said today’s announcement.

The Open Rights Group (ORG) have also warned that the proposed amendments could, among other things, mean that global tech companies are also forced to get permission from the UK government if they want to make changes to security features in their products and services.

This is likely to mean further attacks on end-to-end encryption, which keeps our communications and transactions safe,” added the ORG. But this aspect of the change may also just serve to bring the IP Act more into line with what was already added under the recent Telecommunications (Security) Act, which does admittedly turn security into a bit of a bureaucratic minefield for developers.

Abigail Burke, Platform Power Programme Manager for ORG, said:

“End-to-end encryption keeps our data and our communications safe and secure. The proposed reforms to the Investigatory Powers Act are the government’s latest attack on this technology.

If enacted, these reforms pose a threat to companies’ ability to keep our data safe and increase the risk of criminal attacks. We urge the government to engage with civil society and tech companies, and to reconsider these potentially dangerous proposals.”

Getting the original bill through parliament was a long and complex process, which also faced a number of legal challenges and amendments even after it became law. Updating the rules should be an easier task for the government, although much will depend upon the detail of what they’re proposing, and we don’t yet have any of that. As ever, the devil is often in the detail.

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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
54 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Plazo says:

    Well I think its time to move to a different country at this rate

    1. Avatar photo Sam says:

      They arrested a man for noticing the invasion with foreign flags all over his street in central London. With this in effect, it will be used for arresting any sort of political opposition to the agenda

      https://www2.cbn.com/news/world/uk-police-arrest-man-criticizing-palestinian-flags-social-media-post

    2. Avatar photo John says:

      Tons of other countries will start going the same way

      Hell the EU just said anyone refusing digital IDs will be excluded from society. But they’ll keep selling you the bridge that Donald Trump is the evil one

    3. Avatar photo XGS says:

      You’re going to get a real kick out of eIDAS 2, electronic IDentification, Authentication and trust Services 2.0, when you find out what it actually is, John.

    4. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Thought I can’t say I understand why you brought an authoritarian populist former head of state who’s basically promised that if you thought the first term was authoritarian you’ve seen nothing yet into this discussion.

      He wants to make extensive power grabs to either take new powers of remove oversight of existing ones, use every mechanism available to suppress dissent including, according to multiple reports, the US military, and the Department of Justice to punish basically anyone he doesn’t like.

      That is grim regardless of who’s doing it, and it seems the US will cheer every moment of it.

      Then they’ll find their own freedoms not guaranteed by the constitution rapidly eroded and be all confused how reelecting a vindictive, puerile, chaotic, unstable, incompetent authoritarian narcissist could’ve possibly backfired.

      Multiple sources in that one by the way. A couple of which even think what he wants to do is fantastic as it’ll be aimed at the libs. Minor issue they themselves may end up targets.

    5. Avatar photo John says:

      That’s a big deranged word salad to describe the one POTUS that had the best foreign policy in decades with peace instead of the wars we have right now

      People are sick and tired of the lies they’ve been fed as their quality of life had fell to the gutter under the current demented old man who can’t even climb stairs.

      Trump is very clearly leading in the polls and there’s no amount of whining or weaponizing the justice system with insane rape charges or claiming Mar a Lago, which pulls in 16million a year, is only worth 18 million

  2. Avatar photo Phil says:

    More and more this type of snooping isn’t to catch criminals, but more to snub out dissent among the population. We’ve seen this with the censorship over various medical treatments over the last few years where open and absolutely sensible questioning over a treatment, questions and answers that are paramount to being able to give informed consent, was shut down all the over the place or ‘fact checked’. What we heard form governments in the form of “Safe and effective” was not only against the National Institute for Health and Care research rules on promoting any medical treatments (as no medicine or treatment is completely safe or always effective), it was far from true.

    Governments don’t like the fact that in the modern age of communications, the truth gets out much more often and is seen by far more many people when it does than in times gone by, and it is the uprising of the people they fear the most. Governments should remember we put them there to serve us.

    1. Avatar photo Groucho says:

      Yes Phil, I think you have summed things up very well.

    2. Avatar photo Sam says:

      The fact that it was brought up in parliament yet only about 6 MPs attended, while the gallery was completely full of people, shows that the political class do not care about the will of the people

    3. Avatar photo XGS says:

      ‘What we heard form governments in the form of “Safe and effective” was not only against the National Institute for Health and Care research rules on promoting any medical treatments (as no medicine or treatment is completely safe or always effective), it was far from true.’

      Please would you point me too the NICE’ research rules’ on this? I see a ton of hits for ‘Safe and effective’ treatments on their search engine. Thanks.

  3. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

    So the criminals have not heard of TOR or VPNs then?

    1. Avatar photo Mike says:

      Don’t worry they’ll get to them eventually.

    2. Avatar photo Josef says:

      Windows, iOS, Android and Linux all have backdoor channels that allow your device to be monitored in realtime if the security services want to. A VPN won’t protect you from keylogging, remote screen monitoring or the analysis of files stored or processed on your device.

    3. Avatar photo Anthony says:

      You can get customized versions of Windows 10 and 11 with all of the bundled spyware removed. I have used them for the last 6 years. Not just because of this but because the install size is tiny and it needs significantly less memory too. You have no realization how much-unneeded junk comes with Windows till you run these.

    4. Avatar photo fsociety3765 says:

      @Josef
      That could be true for Windows, iOS, macOS, and any non-stock Android distributions as they’re closed-source proprietary operating systems. But the same cannot be said with regards to Linux and Linux distributions, or forks of the Android Open Source Project.

      Everything on Linux and the AOSP is developed in the open. If there were security flaws, back doors, or any funny business going on with encryption or keys, the community would know about it and quickly rectify it. And even if they didn’t, anyone can view, fork, strip out any bad code, build, and redistribute the software. That is the power of Open Source.

  4. Avatar photo HR2Res says:

    The thin wedge gets thicker…

    1. Avatar photo Mike says:

      The thin wedge gets the legislation through, then they widen the wedge to what they originally wanted later.

  5. Avatar photo Sam P says:

    I’m happy to see people are waking up.
    Only a few years ago people were cheering this sort of thing on believing that it was to keep them safe.

  6. Avatar photo New_Londoner says:

    i know this goes against the general tone of the story as written but the level of paranoia implied in “snooper’s charter” ignores the fact that these powers require warrants, issued via a judge, it isn’t as if data can be used at a whim. There are checks and balances in the current Act which have been reviewed via the European Court of Human Rights.

    1. Avatar photo rjj says:

      Since we have a perfect justice system and no one ever abuses their power, I’m sure there are no problems at all with all these laws. /s

    2. Avatar photo john says:

      Even if you trust the government, which you shouldn’t, the fact these records exist at all means they are vulnerable to exfiltration and exploitation.

    3. Avatar photo Mike says:

      And one day they may decide to remove the need for warrants and the system will be ripe for abuse.

    4. Avatar photo Alex says:

      “which can be accessed without a warrant and may occur regardless of whether or not you’re suspected of a crime”

    5. Avatar photo New_Londoner says:

      @Alex
      I guess you missed the bit that says “Expand the oversight regime to support the Investigatory Powers Commissioner to effectively carry out their role, including putting a number of their functions on a statutory basis. This will maintain the robust, transparent, and world-leading safeguards in the regime.”

  7. Avatar photo Phil says:

    That’s it, I am OUT of this shitty country! Hate this government now. They are BANG OUT OF ORDER!

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      If you’re Phil from Cuckoo Oak exchange area a gentle reminder you voted for this.

    2. Avatar photo Jacek says:

      It doesn’t matter who you vote for or which country you want to move to, similar legislation will be implemented globally over the next 7 years. The EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA), the USA’s Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), Australia’s Online Safety Act are all laying the groundwork for a monitored security state. Privacy is dead.

    3. Avatar photo Sydney Ross says:

      If you’re Phil from Cuckoo Oak exchange area a gentle reminder, you won’t get those massive disability benefits you currently claim here.

  8. Avatar photo tonyp says:

    “At a time when threats to national security are changing rapidly due to new technology…”

    Surely the threats to National Security are the same as ever, it is just the means to avoid detection are changing IMHO. I feel that, unless the UK adopts an authoritarian approach to how the Internet in the UK is used, there will always be a way to circumvent snooping. The usual TOR and VPN have been mentioned. It doesn’t help that one of the underlying improvements to network security will be DNS using TLS which may obscure the destination URL for a website or other service on the ‘net and is set, I believe, to become the norm for network transactions. Unless the United Nations adopts an authoritarian controlling mandate to cross border communications, rogue states or entities will still garner illegal intelligence and/or provide nasty websites to undermine their target states. Some hope of that!

    Dare I suggest that secret communications could still be carried out (and perhaps it is?) by all the encryption methods on short wave radio? Less reliable but would not use the underlying monitored Internet infrastructure.

    Possibly we should cut off all communications from the world – a sort of brexit – as our duty to our nation! 🙂

    1. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      Which is exactly what China have done with the so-called Great Firewall of China. Our politicians criticise China then turn round and do exactly the same thing.

  9. Avatar photo Julian says:

    Let me guess, in the not too distant future there will be a large-scale “incident” which intelligence agencies will claim was orchestrated over Whatsapp/Signal/Session and as a result the government will require stronger powers to monitor encrypted services resulting in reduced freedom and privacy for the plebs. Almost identical legislation will then be rolled out over EU/USA/CAN/AUS/NZ, etc.

    1. Avatar photo Mike says:

      Looks like their plan for dealing with end to end encryption is forcing providers to log/scan the message before its encrypted.

  10. Avatar photo You are being watched.... says:

    So the Government want to see what websites you’ve visited and when without having to get a court order.

    So does that mean they’ll also want to see which pubs, shops, hotels, etc. you’ve visited without getting a court order?

    Or are they already doing that through CCTV, credit card records, etc?

    1. Avatar photo Mike says:

      They want to know everything about you, to ascertain if your a threat and then deal with you accordingly, at least at first, the abuse just for the sake of it, 1984 style, comes later once they have total power over you.

    2. Avatar photo Alex says:

      The great thing about this is then they will need to use AI to do anything useful with such an insane dataset, causing tons of false positives and potentially false accusations.

      If the police don’t have the manpower to attend burglaries anymore, how on earth are they supposed to handle this?

  11. Avatar photo Jim says:

    The fact that HMRC are one of the bodies with authorisation to request your Internet data tells you all you need to know.

    This is nothing to do with the threats we face.

    1. Avatar photo Alex says:

      The joke being as usual they will use it to attack the poor and it will cost more than they ever recover.

    2. Avatar photo Sam says:

      In the US Joe Biden lied that his new armed IRS army would only target the rich…. then they made it so that the state would look up every account with a transaction over $600, meaning everyone with a salary

      In the UK they lowered the capital gains tax threshold for no reason. Soon selling your own home furniture will be taxed

    3. Avatar photo XGS says:

      The CGT threshold change goes a very, very small way towards rebalancing the tax system after the ratio of GDP that’s wages relative to capital gains changed substantially.

      You’re misinformed on the $600 rule. Badly. The state won’t be looking into bank accounts, it applies to transactions via third parties and once they reach the reportable threshold the third party, Venmo, PayPal, whatever, send a form each to the taxpayer and the IRS.

      It’s to ensure people report their income accurately on their tax return.

      https://www.cnbc.com/select/irs-600-reporting-rule-delayed/

      Where on Earth did the idea come from that the state would either be looking directly into bank accounts or have forced every transaction over $600 to be reported by the banks to them? That would be absurd.

      Would you please read some primary sources before regurgitating things you hear wherever else you get your news that simply aren’t true here with obviously no fact checking or seeking of a secondary source at all.

    4. Avatar photo John says:

      “debunks” the specificity of the policy, ignores the fundamental fact that it targets the poor

      If Joe Biden steals another election and plunges the world deeper into poverty, you people will still argue that he doesn’t want to get rid of all gas stoves, only some

    5. Avatar photo XGS says:

      ‘If Joe Biden steals another election’ pretty much says it all on how seriously anything you say should be taken, John, and the value of engaging with you in any way, shape or form.

    6. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Aww I didn’t finish my comment.

      Another quote from the real world: ‘These earnings were already taxable so this is not a change in tax law, but rather just a reporting change.’

      Okay now I’m done, debunked with the specificity of the policy as people mentioning it didn’t bother to find out anything about it beyond whatever characterisation some biased commentator placed on it. Funny how often that happens with groups of people that admonish others to do their research.

  12. Avatar photo Anthony says:

    Allow the mass migration of Muslims into your country. Let them run amuck undisturbed. Then put in place strict snooper’s charters to monitor everyone’s activity for the alleged hope of catching a Muslim terrorist before they commit an attack. I can see a few logical flaws in all of that.

    1. Avatar photo fsociety3765 says:

      Probably more so they can protect said Muslims against so-called “hate crimes”.

    2. Avatar photo Sam says:

      If anything they will find the extremists to then offer them more benefits just like they’ve done with one of the Hamas founders

    3. Avatar photo Dumb Far Right says:

      Of course there’s no such thing as a white Christian terrorist…

  13. Avatar photo fsociety3765 says:

    I can’t wait for the day when the normies with the “I’ve got nothing to hide” mentality start getting persecuted by this crap. Just so I can say I told you so.

  14. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

    People said I was paranoid when I said about the government wanting to know what we do and where we go, things looks different now. Getting to be like China.

    1. Avatar photo Anthony says:

      And the police coming and arresting you for comments on Twitter about LGBTQI people.

    2. Avatar photo Mike says:

      It’s already bad now, imagine what it will be like with real time access to your data, they won’t need to rely on reports.

    3. Avatar photo Sam says:

      People on this chat calling me a “constipatory theorycist” rather than simply looking outside the BBC and Guardian

      I mean it is literally in your face with Labour wanting to arrest you for calling a man as a man. If your toddler daughter goes to the toilet and some perverted man with a wig goes in after her, they will arrest you for wanting your daughter to be safe from him

    4. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Did they, though? It’s patently obvious and has been for years that government are authoritarian and couldn’t care less about privacy. Doesn’t mean they either want to or can go as far as some of the statements you’ve made in the past, hence paranoid.

      I think it’s going to rain today.

      If I said I thought a great torrent of rain that washes us all away in a sea of mass extinction were on the way that’s paranoia. Both are me saying that today I expect rain, one is paranoid/absurd.

      Nuance. Not sure when it became such a rare commodity.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      Not a lot to see here. Offshore support is hardly uncommon. Little to do with authoritarian government.

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