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New law will let PSNI and Stormont see everyone's web history

By Andrew Griffin

Published 25/11/2016

Organisations including the PSNI, Food Standards Agency and the Department for Work and Pensions will be able to see UK citizens' entire internet browsing history in weeks
Organisations including the PSNI, Food Standards Agency and the Department for Work and Pensions will be able to see UK citizens' entire internet browsing history in weeks

Organisations including the PSNI, Food Standards Agency and the Department for Work and Pensions will be able to see UK citizens' entire internet browsing history in weeks.

The Investigatory Powers Bill, which was all but passed into law this week, forces internet providers to keep a full list of internet connection records (ICRs) for a year, and make them available to the Government if it asks.

Those ICRs effectively serve as a full list of every website that people have visited, not collecting which specific pages are visited or what's done on them, but serving as a full list of every site that someone has visited and when.

And those same ICRs will be made available to a wide range of Government bodies.

Those include expected law enforcement organisations like the police, the military and the secret service - but also contain bodies like the Food Standards Agency, the Gambling Commission, council bodies and the Welsh Ambulance Services National Health Service Trust.

In Northern Ireland, they include the PSNI, and several Stormont departments such as the Department for Communities, Department for the Economy, and Department of Justice.

Northern Ireland's Ambulance Service Health and Social Care Trust, the NI Fire and Rescue Service Board, the NI Health and Social Care Regional Business Services Organisation Office of Communications and Police Ombudsman will also be able to check your browsing history.

The security agencies are obviously included: MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.

The same part of the act also includes the minimum office or rank that each person within those organisations must be if they want access to the records.

In the police, any viewer must be an inspector or a superintendent, for instance.

The Government has worked to continue to pass the Bill, despite objections from those companies that the legislation is not possible to enforce and would make customers unsafe.

Recent House of Lords agreement to the text now means that it just awaits Royal Assent, at which point it will become law.

The main objections to the Bill centre around the vast new powers that the Government is given to spy on its citizens.

It includes powers to force companies to make their phones less secure so that they can be listened in on by spies, and others that would allow the Government to ask companies like Apple and Google to help them break or hack into phones.

Critics say it gives Britain perhaps the most extreme spying powers in the developed world.

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