The UK is about to become one of the world’s foremost surveillance states, allowing its police and intelligence agencies to spy on its own people to a degree that is unprecedented for a democracy. The UN’s privacy chief has called the situation “worse than scary.” Edward Snowden says it’s simply “the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy.”
A few years ago, it would have been unthinkable for the British government to admit that it was hacking into people’s computers and collecting private data on a massive scale. But now, these controversial tactics are about to be explicitly sanctioned in an unprecedented new surveillance law.
The Investigatory Powers Act, passed on Thursday, legalises a whole range of tools for snooping and hacking by the security services unmatched by any other country in Western Europe or even the US.
The US passed a modest bill last year curtailing bulk phone data collection but the victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election is potentially a major reverse for privacy advocates. On the campaign trail, Trump made comments that implied he would like to use the powers of the surveillance agencies against political opponents.