A petition asking the UK Parliament to repeal some of its new surveillance laws has reached the number of signatures that’s required for a debate.
More than 120,000 UK citizens have signed the petition in protest of a set of laws known as the Investigatory Powers Act.
First proposed by Prime Minister Theresa May when she was Home Secretary and later approved by the House of Lords, the legislation (PDF) would require internet service providers (ISPs) to record all domains to which each customer connects from their computer or device. ISPs would need to store that data for one year and share it with local police departments, the military, the National Health Service, and other UK public agencies.
Harriet Harman, chariman of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, told BBC News that the UK government can reasonably expand its data-gathering powers under the legislation:
“The bill provides a clear and transparent basis for powers already in use by the security and intelligence services, but there need to be further safeguards.”
Others aren’t so optimistic.
Those who signed the petition view the laws as “an absolute disgrace to both privacy and freedom.” They believe it would allow the UK government to hack anyone’s files regardless of whether they are a law-abiding citizen.
But as the recent spate of mega-breaches at LinkedIn and other websites tells us, bad actors are also more than capable of gaining access to citizens’ information, especially if it’s stored in a centralized database.
The chairman of the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) recognizes that threat applies to the Investigatory Powers Act:
“You can try every conceivable thing in the entire world to [protect it], but somebody will still outsmart you. Mistakes will happen. It’s a question of when. Hopefully it’s in tens or maybe a hundred years. But it might be next week.”
As of this writing, it’s not clear when Parliament will discuss the petition.
If the parliamentary debate fails to move UK lawmakers, the laws will go into effect later in 2016.