Say Goodbye to Privacy: The UK Proposes Chinese-Style Internet Snooping

By Sam Gibbs on at

The UK is set to take Big Brother into the 21st century, Chinese-style, if the government’s plans to snoop on your web browsing, email, and phone calls are pushed through. GCHQ could be given the power to monitor your internet activities in real-time without a warrant – the same kind of tactics employed by both China and Iran.

The new law, which could be announced as soon as May in the upcoming Queen’s Speech, would mean the UK’s anti-terrorism and serious crime agency, GCHQ, would have on-demand access to records of who you contacted; how often and for how long, as well as everything you’ve looked at online. It wouldn’t be able to read the actual contents of your emails however, but ISPs currently have to keep a record of all internet activities for two years and all that would be fair game. The current system requires a warrant from a magistrate to be obtained before records like that can be taken from the ISP.

The government wishes to cut the time required to act on intelligence over terrorist threats and even serious crime; the Home Office said the new law was needed to "maintain the continued availability of communications data as technology changes". But like privacy campaigners, I feel this could potentially let GCHQ snoop on anyone at any time – it really could be watching your every move online.

The director of the Big Brother Watch campaign group, Nick Pickles, went as far as saying this was an unprecedented attack on the very heart of online privacy.

"This is an absolute attack on privacy online and it is far from clear this will actually improve public safety, while adding significant costs to internet businesses. [It’s] an unprecedented step that will see Britain adopt the same kind of surveillance seen in China and Iran."

Thankfully, even if the Queen announces the new law in May, it’ll have to get through Parliament, with potential opposition in the House of Commons and House of Lords. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t like the idea that any government organisation can just snoop on anyone without going through due process. We're already a nation with cameras watching our every move out on the streets, is the internet next? The current system helps to prevent abuse – what’s to stop unfettered access to this kind of thing being taken advantage of if you don’t even need a warrant? [BBC]

Image credit: Big Brother from Shutterstock