The British parliament has passed the Investigatory Powers Bill, giving the government sweeping new powers to spy on internet users and force service providers to hand over user data.
The new law will force internet companies to store users’ browsing data for a year, and allows the government to order companies to hack into their products so they can spy on users.
It also gives law enforcement authorities the ability to hack into individuals’ phones and computers with the permission of the Home Secretary, and even includes provisions to allow police to hack journalists to discover their sources.
The measures have been highly criticised by tech companies like Apple and Twitter who say that the legislation will be impossible to enforce and put users at risk, but the government has managed to push the bill through parliament.
Having been agreed by both Houses of Parliament, the bill is now only awaiting Royal Assent – a mere formality – before it become law.
Critics say the bill has been written too hastily and has been pushed through parliament so quickly that it has not been properly scrutinised. The only successful amendment tabled by MPs was one to protect themselves from some of the provisions.
Some of the provision are also too vaguely worded, critics add, meaning the government could potentially have to power to force tech companies to do whatever they want.
The measure forcing internet service providers to keep browsing data for every single person in the country is especially controversial due to fears the data could be stolen, potentially endangering the privacy of millions of people.
Press Gazette also says requests by police to view journalists’ call data will also be made in secret to telecoms providers, with requests granted when there is “overriding public interest”.
Apple warned against the bill in December last year, claiming the provisions could “spark serious international conflicts”.
They warned the legislation could paralyse “multinational corporations under the weight of what could be dozens or hundreds of contradictory country-specific laws” and “immobilise substantial portions of the tech sector and spark serious international conflicts”.
“The bill as it stands seems to threaten to extend responsibility for hacking from government to the private sector,” the company said.