Theresa May, the UK home secretary on 4th November presented the draft investigatory power bill. This bill will allow government intelligence agencies and law enforcement the power to look through anyone’s private data provided that they are in the UK. This new legislation will force the UK ISPs to retain Internet connection records (ICRs) of all their customers from the previous twelve months. Most surprising however is that VPNs (virtual private networks) were not mentioned in the whole document.
The bill is intended to appear before the house to await its approval in 2016 after it has been clarified and refined. Also referred to as the Snooper’s charter, the bill was clearly laid out in two hundred and ninety nine page document. It explained the changes that government of the UK wants to make regarding intercepting and hacking of computers and devices to allow the access of information needed in case investigations.
If passed into law, Internet companies will be required to retain people’s social media and web use data for as long as twelve months. Legally, tech firms will be obliged to assist government agencies to access any user’s data. In addition, it will be okay for law enforcement to hack your devices.
The luck of any mention of VPNs in the bill is very interesting particularly because they have the capacity to block the retention of the ICRs. Typically, VPNs are subscription services which field the user’s Internet traffic via a special protective communication protocol throughout the internet.
VPNs not only protect the users’ online activities but also help to bypass video contents that have been geographically restricted such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix and NBC TV-app service.
VPNs are extremely cheap and go for approximately twenty dollars per year. This therefore beats logic since any person who uses the VPNs while browsing the internet through his or her device will not have much information of the ICR. The only information about their internet activities that will be available is the time they use their ISP to connect to the secure VPNs. Any other activity after that will appear as an encrypted traffic.
The drafted bill also fails to mention the Tor browser which is also an anonymity network. The Tor software makes Internet activities anonymous and redirects the traffic across a world-wide network.
However, perhaps the lack of any mention of VPNs is due to the fact that the bill will require the global manufacturers and companies such as Google and Apple to particularly switch off any end to end encryptions in Android and iOS devices as soon as the user enters into the UK. The draft investigatory power bill does not refer to Internet service providers. Instead, it specifically refers to communication service providers (CSPs). According to the proposed changes in the bill, communication service providers will not be able to provide any type of encrypted service which it can’t provide a key for.
On the other hand, maybe it is that the British security scene and politics need to be more informed about VPNs. As it is, very few people currently understand that the VPNs are.
Either way, there is a high likelihood that more people will start using the secure VPNs. Services may also start to design and create VPNs for their functionality.
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