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Surveillance Tool To Monitor All Online Activity In UK Is Tested

Thomas Devile   May 26, 2021

Over the course of the past two years, British police and internet companies based in the UK have been discreetly building and trialling a specific surveillance technology. This surveillance tool has the power to log and store the web browsing activity of every individual throughout the UK. The surveillance tool is part of the Investigatory Powers Act – also known as the Snoopers’ Charter – which was introduced in 2016, having been signed off by both the Houses of Parliament and Queen Elizabeth II. Some five years later after the Snoopers’ Charter was introduced, it’s most controversial surveillance tool is being trialled by internet companies in the UK.

About The Surveillance Tool Testing

This tool is undoubtedly the most controversial online monitoring method we have heard of. Whilst we are familiar with computer monitoring tools and intelligent surveillance cameras that help protect the general public, there is a feeling that this surveillance tool is invasive and too widespread. So, who is behind the testing of this surveillance tool and what are the early indicators?

The tests are being conducted by two large internet service providers, the names of which have yet to be revealed. Also involved in the testing is the Home Office and the National Crime Agency. The tests are being carried out under the contentious surveillance laws, set out in the Snoopers’ Charter. If the tests are deemed successful, there is a very real possibility that data collection systems could be rolled out on a national level. Such a rollout would bring about one of the most powerful and, of course, controversial surveillance tools used by any democratic nation.

What Data Would The Surveillance Tool Actually Collect?

apps on smart phone

The testing has centred, in part, around the creation of Internet Connection Records (ICRs). Such records document what someone does online. Basically, these records track your every movement in the online world. They contain metadata about your online existence and it is this data that provides an in-depth insight into the person behind the screen. So, the metadata provides details of your digital life – who, what, why, where and when.

ICRs were brought in as a new form of data, primarily used for security reasons. Yet, while the metadata within ICRs do not contain the content of what a web user is viewing, it can still be extremely useful to those that review it. Here are some of the things that metadata can reveal about a user’s online activity:

  • Apps used
  • Domains visited
  • IP Addresses
  • When internet use begins and ends

Trials Ongoing With Internet Providers

The surveillance law requires web and phone companies to store browsing histories for up to a year in some instances. It is important to note, however, that a company must be served with an order, telling them to store the data. This order would have to be given by a senior judge. The first of these orders was issued to an internet provider back in July 2019 and was the precedent for ICRs being tested in the real world.

After the trials with the internet providers have been assessed, the system could be expanded across the UK. The Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office says that they are conducting regular reviews to “ensure that the data types collected remain necessary and proportionate.”

Of course, this surveillance law will provide some outstanding advantages for police and the UK government, as they look to track and catch criminals using the internet. Although, for some law-abiding citizens, there is no doubt that the law will feel like a crime against their freedom. This is certainly the way that civil liberty organisation Liberty Human Rights sees the surveillance law.

Legal Opposition From Liberty Human Rights

As you might imagine, such an all-encompassing and substantial surveillance tool has been met with stern opposition. Not only are some UK residents concerned by the implementation of a tool that is deemed to violate online privacy, but Liberty Human Rights actually has an ongoing legal dispute over the investigatory powers act.

As their website states, “We’re in the middle of a case against the Government because its Investigatory Powers Act (the Snoopers’ Charter) gives the police and security services powers to spy on everyone whether or not we’re suspected of wrongdoing.”

The legal battle has been ongoing for a number of years now and in 2018, Liberty Human Rights believed they had a breakthrough in the case: “In April 2018, the High Court said the Act was incompatible with EU law in the way that it allowed state agencies to access data held by telecommunications operators, and the Act was amended.”

However, a year later that notion was reversed: “In June 2019, the Court said the ‘bulk powers’ don’t breach privacy and free expression rights and the Act does contain sufficient safeguards for journalistic and legal communications.” Liberty Human Rights have appealed against the decision.

Spy Equipment UK – Surveillance Experts

At Spy Equipment UK, we have a dedicated team of surveillance experts that help individuals and companies discover the truth and gather crucial evidence. If you have any questions about how we manufacture our surveillance products or would like to enquire about the uses of any of the devices across our ranges, please do not hesitate to contact us. We endeavour to bring you the very latest news and updates from the spy world and we hope you have found this article educational.