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Snoopers' Charter is a 'security nightmare' that rides roughshod over privacy, warns Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Snoopers' Charter is a 'security nightmare' that rides roughshod over privacy, warns Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Computing Online - 30th November 2016 by Carly Page

Sir Tim Berners-Lee has hit out at the Investigatory Powers Bill, which this week received royal assent, claiming that such a law "has no place in a modern democracy".

The IP Bill, better known as the Snoopers' Charter, grants the government wide-ranging surveillance powers and will become law in 2017.

The Bill will require ISPs and other communications companies to store comprehensive records of websites visited and phone numbers called for 12 months.

It will enable police, security services and many other public-sector bodies, from the Department for Work and Pensions to the Food Standards Agency, to access those records on demand.

It will also provide the security services with the legal power to bulk-collect personal communications data, and give police and security services the explicit power to hack into, and bug, computers and smartphones.

But Berners-Lee, who earlier this year commented that government interference had seen the internet become "the world’s largest surveillance network", criticised the sweeping online surveillance law in a BBC interview this week.

Berners-Lee said: "This Snoopers' Charter has no place in a modern democracy - it undermines our fundamental rights online.

"The bulk collection of everyone's internet browsing data is disproportionate, creates a security nightmare for the ISPs who must store the data - and rides roughshod over our right to privacy.

"Meanwhile, the bulk-hacking powers in the Bill risk making the internet less safe for everyone."

When quizzed as to why he thinks MPs didn't listen to opponents of the bill, Berners-Lee said that most probably didn't understand the far-reaching nature of the powers that they were granting government.

"The fact that most MPs are not technologists likely also played a role - they may simply not have understood just how intrusive the laws they were considering were."

"However, public outrage and legal challenges are building around the Bill, meaning the story isn't over yet. A petition to repeal the Bill has reached more than 100,000 signatures in just a few days, meaning Parliament must consider debating it again. I strongly urge them to do so."

Berners-Lee isn't the only vocal opponent of the Bill, with human rights groups and privacy advocates also keen to speak out about the "draconian" spying powers.

Open Rights Group executive director Jim Killock said: "Now that the Bill has passed, there is renewed concern about the extent of the powers that will be given to the police and security agencies.

"In particular, people appear to be worried about new powers that mean our web browsing activity can be collected by Internet Service Providers and viewed by the police and a whole range of government departments.

"Parliament may choose to ignore calls for a debate but this could undermine public confidence in these intrusive powers. A debate would also be an opportunity for MPs to discuss the implications of various court actions, which are likely to mean that the law will have to be amended."