Real news from the privacy world

UK Government Secretly Planning to Introduce Real-Time Surveillance

The British government is conducting a secret consultation over a scheme to effectively outlaw end-to-end encryption and to increase Internet surveillance. It has developed a proposal on technical capabilities under the controversial Investigatory Powers Act, which would require telecommunications service providers to allow real-time access to named individuals’ data.

What Is Being Proposed

In government’s draft technical capability notices paper [PDF], all communications companies – including phone networks and ISPs – will be put under an obligation to provide real-time access to the full content of any named individual’s communications. Any “secondary data” relating to that person must also be provided. The company must hand over the information in one working day.

Another requirement is that companies remove “electronic protection” when it comes to handing over data. To that end, internet providers will be pressured to introduce a backdoor point on their networks to allow intelligence agencies to access anyone’s communications.

There is also the requirement that ISPs “provide and maintain” the ability for real-time monitoring of 1 in every 10,000 customers at once.

The draft proposal was allegedly leaked to civil liberties body the Open Rights Group, which received the document on 4 May.

Sal Brinton, the President of the Liberal Democrat party, told The Register in a statement: “This lays bare the extreme mass surveillance this Conservative government is planning after the election.” She described the proposed regulations as “a full-frontal assault” on civil liberties and people’s privacy.

Consultations Behind Closed Doors

What is perhaps most alarming, however, is the lack of transparency around the draft powers.

The draft document has already passed through the UK government’s technical advisory board, consisting of six telecoms giants, including O2, BT, BSkyB and Vodafone. It has also been circulated among the government agencies who would use the powers, thought to include at least MI5 and GCHQ.

That means that the contents have in general already been agreed to by most of the organisations included in the closed consultation. However, there is no obligation for the government to publicly announce draft regulations, which would have to be passed by both Houses of Parliament in order to become law.

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 regulations are presented in the form of a Draft Statutory Instrument, but are is yet to be listed under the category on the official legislation website.

What You Can Do

The Home Office’s private consultation has not published much but it is open until 19 May. If you would like the UK government to know your views, you should definitely email

In the unfortunate case that the surveillance proposal does become law, it’s important to remember that the new power could only be applied to companies that are based in the UK. One of the best and easiest ways to bypass the local ISP monitoring is to use a VPN service based outside of the UK. Not only does it allow you to change your location to a different country, but also secures all your Internet traffic with strong encryption.

For additional security, look into NordVPN’s double data encryption solution, which reroutes your traffic through two remote servers and offers the tightest security in the industry by encrypting your data twice.

Even better, NordVPN doesn’t keep any records or store communication logs, so no government body can force it to release your records—because it has none!

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