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May 5, 2017updated 21 Jul 2022 6:08am

Leaked UK Government plans reveal increased telco spying powers

UK privacy is coming under threat once more as the Government drafts new Orwellian measures.

By Joe Clark

Details have leaked regarding the UK Government’s secret plans to broaden surveillance powers on UK citizens. These new powers include backdoor encryption and the ability to monitor named individuals communications in real time.

The draft Technical Capability Notices paper, leaked by The Open Rights Group, will force telcos and ISP’s to give the government free access to the entirety of an individual’s communications content and reams of secondary data within 24 hours.

These new plans will afford the Government and intelligence agencies real time access to every 1 in 10,000 users communications, this equates to approximately 6,500 individuals at any one time.

Telcos will also be obligated to provide the Government with access to encrypted communications. This means that telcos will have to introduce a backdoor to encrypted messages, signalling the death of full end-to-end encryption for UK companies.

The new plans will also only affect companies which are based in the UK, so companies like Whatsapp will still be able to use end-to-end encryption.

Liberal Democrat President Sal Brinton told The Register in a statement: “This lays bare the extreme mass surveillance this Conservative government is planning after the election.”

“It is a full frontal assault on civil liberties and people’s privacy. The security services need to be able to keep people safe. But these disproportionate powers are straight out of an Orwellian nightmare and have no place in a democratic society.”

One of the most worrying things about this new draft is the lack of transparency from the Government, the draft is clearly very serious but there has been no public consultation.

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The leaked draft paper was shared with the UK’s Technical Advisory Board which includes representatives from the six largest UK telcos and ISP’s O2, BT, Vodafone, Virgin Media, BSkyB, and Cable and Wireless, all of which appear to have agreed to the terms.

These new measures represent an update to the Investigatory Powers Act of 2016, commonly known as the Snooper’s Charter, which gave the government broad powers to extend its surveillance capabilities.

The new draft will need to be agreed upon by secretaries of state and overseen by a judge appointed by the Prime Minister, before being ratified by both Houses of Parliament.

The private consultation is still on going until May 19th, though any member of the public looking to voice concerns should send those concerns via email to investigatorypowers@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk.

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