The Illusion of Privacy
The Investigatory Powers Act (IPA), a surveillance law that allows Internet providers to store consumer’s browsing data for 1 year, is a definite cause of concern. This extreme form of surveillance, which was strongly encouraged by Home Secretary Theresa May, is backed by the philosophy that in today’s era, it is necessary to digitally track the activities of the public in order to combat threats like terrorism. Ultimately, this means privacy is merely an illusion since service providers and police have the power to hack into computers and phones to collect any and all personal data.
In a time where security threats are paramount, the government has taken the stance to combat the concern by infiltrating our digital communication and thus help keep us “safe”. Fortunately, Home Secretary Amber Rudd claims that the IPA will have “rigorous oversight” and that the “powers are subject to strict safeguards”. Nonetheless, it is likely that the public’s confidence in the government will further weaken because people feel this act is just an excuse to keep the public under mass surveillance – terrorism or no terrorism. In our democratic society, most will probably not agree with the implementation of this law but because it has been passed, we’ll just have to test the depths of this invasion and see what ramifications come about.
Resisting the Invasion of Privacy
A petition signed by more than 100,000 people to null the IPA didn’t see the light of day. The possibility of a debate even happening was declined by the UK Petitions Committee despite the fact that the number of signatures needed for a debate was satisfied. Fortunately, companies like Facebook and Google have shown their support to consumers by refusing to allow UK authorities access to decoded encrypted data. Disappointingly, however, the IPA has the power to force its citizens to decode personal information and anyone who refuses can be put in prison for up to 2 years.
Knowing that government bodies can access people’s browsing activity from all technological devices is summed up in one word: terrifying. No, it isn’t that all of society is engaging in illegal acts that can get them into serious trouble. It’s just that in our democratic society – emphasis on democratic – it really is shocking that the Investigatory Powers Act was actually passed. We can no longer browse online knowing that our activity is secure and the excuse given for this massive invasion is potential security threats that could arise. Our entire digital communication is now an open book with authorities having complete access to our digital whereabouts. If the sole purpose of the IPA is to ensure the safety of the public from harm, some people may be on board, but to the rest, it’s a turbulent thought – especially when people believe that the government itself cannot be trusted. For ordinary innocent civilians, this move could be catastrophic if personal information falls in the wrongs hands.