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UK tech entrepreneurs react to approval of Investigatory Powers Bill

The controversial Investigatory Powers Bill was passed into law last week and members from the UK’s tech community have been quick to share their opinion on the matter.

Commonly referred to as the Snoopers Charter and championed by Prime Minister Theresa May, the bill has been widely criticised as it will grant the government – and intelligence agencies – unprecedented surveillance power unmatched by any other country in Western Europe or the USA.

Guy Marson, managing director of data science and intelligence marketing firm Profusion, defined the bill as a “concerning piece of legislation”.

“Requiring tech companies to record and store data on what consumers are doing online and potentially making it accessible to the government is a gross infringement of an individual’s right to privacy and a logistical nightmare for the tech industry,” he added.

Technology companies, he noted, will struggle with the bulk collection of data both from a storage and data governance perspective. This, Marson went on to note, would also result in an additional burden for the security services as they struggle to come to terms with data collection.

“Additionally, limiting what encryption can be used is a victory for the security services, hackers and companies intent on misusing personal data. Not a week goes by when it isn’t made readily apparent that the protection currently afforded to personal data is inadequate. Requiring companies to remove encryption on request is a stunningly short-sighted approach,” concluded the CEO.

‘Limited oversight’

The bill’s approval comes after the Science and Technology Committee warned earlier in the year that it would risk undermining the country’s technology sector as associated compliance costs would stifle growth across the industry.

First outlined by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary, the bill includes provisions for web and phone companies to keep a record of all website visits made by UK citizens for a year, so that these can be accessed by relevant authorities on demand.

Lee Munson, security researcher at Comparitech.com, a comparison service for consumer tech products, commented on the extent of the government’s power to intervene.

“For those people saying they have nothing to hide, and hence nothing to fear, the passing of the Investigatory Powers Bill into statute will be something of a non-event,” he said, adding: “Privacy advocates, and an increasing proportion of the rest of the population, may well be concerned, however, that the so-called ‘Snooper’s Charter’, for so long championed by new Prime Minister Theresa May, has now been passed by the House of Lords.”

The introduction of the bill, Munson continued, would mean the likes of GCHQ could intercept online communications with ease.

“So, whether citizens have anything to hide or not is no longer for them to decide – their government will do it for them,” he added.

Theo Priestley, CEO of Cronycle, an online content curation platform, was candid about his dislike of the bill.

What’s next

It’s not the first time the Investigatory Powers Bill has attracted criticism from privacy advocates and those who fervently oppose decryption.

In June this year, Douglas Crawford, editor at BestVPN, said the Snooper’s Charter was a “truly Orwellian piece of legislation”, adding that it set out to formalise what had gone on for years without public consent or knowledge.

Regardless of the criticism, though, the bill, which has now been sent to royal assent, is expected to become law in a matter of weeks.

What are your thoughts on the Investigatory Powers Bill? Let us know in the comments section below.