Snoopers’ Charter: invasion of privacy or for your safety?

TL;DR the “snoopers’ charter” is a proposed new law which allows spies to see the websites you visit without a warrant.


Snoopers’ what?

It’s officially called the Investigatory Powers Bill. It increases the amount of online activity the government can track and monitor.

Announced in the Queen’s Speech, the snoopers’ charter is designed to help the authorities tackle terrorism. According to them, at least.

Why the sudden need to redefine what powers are legal? Current laws are out of date and whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that our spy agencies engaged in mass collection of data. Questionable behaviour and possibly illegal.


As it stands

snoopers charter, george clooney peers over a hill

Government wants to implement a ‘snoopers’ charter’ and track online activity… We hope George Clooney is the one snooping on us!

Right now the rules on what spies are allowed to do are very messy. Most were written before the rise of the internet and social messaging apps like WhatsApp.

Early in 2015 an independent report said “time to start over” with a comprehensive law outlining what powers the spooks should have.

The government’s view is that technological advances (think: social media, instant messaging) are allowing terrorists and criminals to communicate undetected.

In 2011, the London Riots were partly coordinated by people using private chat on Blackberry Messenger.

Currently spies can listen in to your phone calls and intercept your emails if they get a warrant signed by the Home Secretary. These are only approved if the government thinks you are a threat to national security. Don’t take it personally.

Phone providers also keep records of who you call and when. Spies and police can request to access these records. The government now want internet providers do the same thing for all websites we visit.


What would the snoopers’ charter allow?

If passed into law internet providers will have to record and store information every website we visit. Here’s the bit everyone’s talking about: police and security services will not need a warrant to view these internet connection records.

However these powers will only be used to determine if we’re doing something illegal. Not just to see which news sites we prefer – Scenes of Reason, obviously 😉

Only the homepage of the website will be stored. For example, spies would be able to see that you visited but not the specific articles you looked at or who you spoke to. Here’s Home Secretary Theresa May explaining:


Though as the tweet below shows, you can still learn a lot from the home pages people visit;



The bill also allows the “bulk” collection of data for the first time in law;



This is the collection of LOTS of data in the hope that it contains information relevant to police/spy investigations. AKA the activity that Edward Snowden uncoveredNeedle in a haystack, anyone?



The snoopers’ charter also clarifies the powers of the state to use “equipment interference powers”. Basically hacking into your computer.

Communication companies will have a legal duty to assist spies to hack into the devices of criminal suspects. You heard that right; your network provider would have to help James Bond gain access your phone.

Previous versions of the snoopers’ charter threatened to ban apps likes WhatsApp. The reason being spies and the cops can’t access messages sent via these apps due to the encryption that they use. The new bill doesn’t go that far.

Instead it suggests that the government would be able to request information, even if encrypted. How the hell this would work or if it’s possible we don’t know.

If you love your reading the full 229 pages of the draft snoopers’ charter, ahem, sorry – the draft Investigatory Powers Bill is available to view online. Happy reading.


Should I be worried?

If you are a terrorist or criminal then, yeah.

snoopers charter, law abiding citizen, gerard butler, gif of gerard butler winking

Law abiding citizens don’t need to fear the new bill… not you Gerard!

If you are a law-abiding citizen (please, no jokes about the Gerard Butler film) the government say you don’t need to worry.

However civil rights groups are already saying that it’s making it too easy for the government to spy on innocent people. Expect lots of debate in the coming months over the criteria for defining someone as a suspect.

As companies will have to store communication data for up to a year, others are worried about the risk of this data being stolen. When 15-year-olds are hacking phone companies perhaps this is a valid concern.

Others say that it could lead to a massive database where everyone’s communications are logged. Obviously the government says this won’t happen. Good one, guys, feel a lot better about that now.

Considering that previous versions of the snoopers’ charter included ideas like spies being able to access communications in real-time you might think this new version is a lot tamer.

Labour’s Andy Burnham says the new bill broadly gets the balance right.

The bill does includes a “double lock” to ensure that these new powers won’t be used for the forces of evil. Government ministers will give the green light to more intrusive surveillance. This decision also need to be okayed by a judge.

This is apart from emergencies where a minister could authorise spying immediately, without a judge’s say-so. The judge would then have five days to review the case.

There will also be safeguards for “sensitive professions” for those handling confidential information. Like doctors with medical records and journalists protecting sources. We sure feel sensitive.

However, not all are convinced. Shami Chakrabarti from campaign group Liberty calls the snoopers’ charter a “breath-taking attack on the internet security of every man, woman and child in our country.” Guess you can’t please them all.


Join the snoopers’ charter debate:


Snoopers’ Charter Decoded: new laws mean all your internet activity will be logged.

If you don’t want to be traced you could always go into the Deep Web.

Should the UK government have the power to collect masses of communication data? If it’s for the greater good does that make it OK? Post or tweet us your answers and we promise not to pass them to the government.

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Is Cyberbullying harmless banter or serious crime?

If you post a negative comment about someone online is that just harmless banter, or cyberbullying? What about freedom of speech?


What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbulling = a wave of fire hits a computer user

Cyberbulling; a barrage of online insults

Cyberbullying (AKA Trolling) is bombarding someone online with insults and threats.

The rise of social media and online chatrooms has made it a lot easier for people to engage in cyberbullying. It’s a lot easier to say something nasty online, rather than to someone’s face. Victims of trolling can be celebrities but can also be ordinary people.

Cyberbullying can be as simple as leaving a hateful comment on someone’s profile, all the way up to posting naked pictures of someone online, or threatening them.

Though trolling is now part of  popular culture, referenced in films like Chatroom and Unfriended, this issue is more serious than it first seems.


Why are we talking about trolling?

Apps like Tripadvisor, where you can rate restaurants and hotels, are often hijacked by trolls. In some cases the trolls haven’t even visited the restaurant they are slamming.

As soon as a high-profile news story breaks, you can bet that people online will be expressing their views pretty vocally. There’s nothing wrong with expressing an opinion, but often people go a step too far. Charlotte Proudman, the barrister who called out sexism online received a barrage of death threats and menacing messages.

Twitter response to the Peeple app, people make comments comparing it to cyberbullying and trolling

Is #peeple just a new app for cyberbullying?

As with regular bullying, what can seem to the bully as harmless banter can be experienced by the victim as cyberbullying.

Defining cyberbullying is a question of proportion. Posting a single joke, or negative comment could be seen as harmless, but if this happens regularly then it could be seen as trolling.

However, even a single comment can be damaging, especially if you haven’t asked for feedback. That’s why everyone is getting vocal about a new app called Peeple. This app allows you to rate and review people you know, just like Tripadvisor.

People are irked because there is no way to opt out from being rated. The Telegraph describes how you can rate other people even if they don’t have the app, by simply entering their mobile number. To remove the review they have to sign up to the app themselves.

Positive responses to the Peeple app, accused of being a cyberbullying app

Divisive; Peeple has some supporters

Peeple CEO Julia Cordray said “You’re going to rate people in the three categories that you can possibly know somebody — professionally, personally or romantically”.

Ratings and reviews are not anonymous, something which the developers hope will prevent trolling and increase the amount of positive reviews. If someone calls you out with a negative review you get a 48 hour window to sort things with them before the comment is posted online.

It could be argued that Peeple users should be allowed to air their views. You know, freedom of speech and all that. Despite this people are still worried this is basically a trolling app; whereas some others are going to give Peeple a chance.

Cordray acknowledges that “there seems to be some fear and I have a lot of empathy for that… But I’m going to lead by example and show that this app is actually more positive than it ever could be negative.”

Which is fair enough, but as Cordray also says that we “deserve to see where you could improve” perhaps the negative comments about aspects of the Peeple app should be used to improve it?

Some are calling for Peeple to be banned by the app store –  others think governments can do much more to stop trolling ruining lives.

Have your say:

Is Peeple a good or bad thing? Let us know;


Should we take a tougher stance on trolling?

The number of cyberbullying victims in the UK is on the rise. A man called Sean Duffy was jailed in 2011 for posting insulting and insensitive messages about people who had died. In 2013 a teenage girl committed suicide after being bullied online.

A victim of cyberbullying with her head in her hands

Cyberbullying is on the rise in the UK

Yet for now there is no specific law against cyberbullying.

We have three different laws; the Malicious Communications Act, the Communications Act and the Protection from Harassment Act. Overkill much?

Messages which show intent to cause physical harm or violence, harassment or stalking will get you into trouble. But the Crown Prosecution Service (the guys who take you to court) is quite strict about who gets served.

Children who are unlikely to know the damage their comments may cause are unlikely to be prosecuted.

The UK government has just released a new anti-trolling website to help victims of cyberbullying. Should we go further, following New Zealand in making cyberbullying illegal?

New Zealand’s anti-trolling law was voted this year. It focuses on hate speech – so racism, sexism, homophobia are all no-goes. Trolls using offensive language or bullying people could end up with a fine or even jail time.

Despite most New Zealand MPs voting in favour of the new law many people worry it will limit freedom of speech. They say people offended by jokes, satirical articles or opinion pieces could use the law to attempt to get them removed.

Trolling is becoming a real problem, but is restricting people’s comments online prohibiting freedom of speech?


Cyberbullying Decoded: If you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it online.

Should the UK create a specific cyberbullying law? Are apps like Peeple just a harmless bit of tech, or something more sinister?

If you or someone you know is the victim of cyberbullying, Childline offers support and has guidance pages about what to do.


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