Snoopers’ Charter: Big Brother Law Allows Government And Police To Hack Cell Phones And Record Browsing History, Including App Activity

A controversial new law, nicknamed the Snoopers’ Charter, allows the U.K. Government to record all activities on a user’s cell phone and use the recorded browsing history, including in app activity, as a means of collecting evidence against the user.

The official name of the law is the Investigatory Powers Bill and it allows law enforcement and the government to collect data that is saved by app developers, cellular carriers, and the cell phones, as a means of collecting evidence, if and when it is needed. Snoopers’ Charter also allows for the use of listening devices on the mobile phones, such as the cameras and microphones, if serious criminal activity is suspected. This includes activity from petty crimes that have reached a serious nature, up to acts of suspected terrorism, despite being marketed toward terrorism specifically.

According to Metro, many citizens of the U.K. are concerned that the Snoopers’ Charter will be used as a means of hacking mobile devices and spying on the citizens of the country. However, the government has stated that its main goal is to combat terrorism, although it might be useful in lesser incidents of serious crime as well.

The Investigatory Powers Bill replaces the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, that was originally intended to allow the councils in the U.K. to carry out 55,000 days of surveillance over the course of 5 years. However, evidence has been revealed that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act has been grossly misused in the past, feeding the belief that the Snoopers’ Charter will also be used in ways it was not intended.

According to the Daily Mail, the Investigatory Powers Bill was passed in November by the House of Lords. It was passed after a proposed amendment that would force members of the press to pay court costs for both parties if allegations of phone or email hacking were to be seen in front of the courts. The payments would be required whether the claims were justified or not.

The amendment would have potentially stopped reports about high profile figures acting dishonestly, as revealed by various electronic means. This would allow that data to be retrieved and the sources to be revealed by law enforcement and the government as deemed necessary.

The Snoopers’ Charter builds upon the amendment, which was not passed, and forces the all app companies and cellular carriers to store data for at least a period of 12 months. During that time, law enforcement and the government are able to retrieve that data at any time to be used in investigations they deem the information is necessary.

Although the Snoopers’ Charter has only been passed in the U.K., it could potentially impact app developers throughout the world, forcing them to abide by the Snoopers’ Charter if they allow their apps to be deployed in the United Kingdom. Since the Snoopers’ Charter is meant to battle terrorism, tourists are expected to be susceptible to the law as well, when they are in the U.K.

Brian Paddick, the Liberal Democratic Shadow Home Secretary, is not amused with the public’s misconceptions about the passing of the Snoopers’ Charter, claiming its potential to be sued by the local authorities will not be used to step beyond the boundaries of its intentions.

“It is absurd that local authorities are using measures primarily intended for combating terrorism for issues as trivial as a dog barking or the sale of theatre tickets.”

He went on to claim that using its power against the public would only be used if the need would benefit an investigation.

“Spying on the public should be a last resort not an everyday tool. While the Investigatory Powers Bill will now restrict the ability of local authorities to monitor people’s communications, it will give mass surveillance powers to a huge number of government bodies.”

Paddick claims that proper oversight will ensure that the Snoopers’ Charter will be used appropriately. However, as with the historic use of similar initiatives, that remains to be seen.

Although the Snoopers’ Charter is only active in the United Kingdom, many in the United States believe the use if similar technologies are present within America. What are your thoughts about the Snoopers’ Charter, is it a necessary evil to combat terrorism, or is it intrusive to the population?

[Featured Image by Twinsterphoto/Shutterstock]