The United Kingdom’s Parliamentary Houses passed the Investigatory Powers Bill recently. The bill was first introduced in 2012 by Theresa May. She recently became prime minister, after the Brexit, position that was previously held by David Cameron. This Investigatory Powers Bill forces Internet Service Providers to keep records of all their customers’ browsing history. The massive logging database can be accessed by 48 organizations.
The bill also mentions what they call “bulk equipment interference.” In other words the hacking of personal devices and even enterprise systems for data that may prove to be relevant in an investigation. The broad description and coverage of the bill earned it the title of “snoopers’ charter” among the opposing privacy groups and human rights organizations.
Anne Jellema, head of the World Wide Web Foundation had a statement that perfectly depicts the seriousness of the situations. She asked “Does the UK really want the dubious honor of introducing powers deemed too intrusive by all other major democracies, joining the likes of China and Russia in collecting everyone’s browsing habits?” It seems the answer to that question became very clear today.
You can find more detailed information about the Investigatory Powers Bill here along with a list of all the entities that will have access to the internet browsing history of British citizens.
What you can do to protect your privacy
If you live in Great Britain and want to protect your online privacy, hence not sharing all your browsing activity with the government, using a VPN service is the obvious thing to do. There are quite a few VPN services that help protect your privacy while browsing the internet, and even though many of them may seems to be serving your purpose, there are some key features you should look into, especially in this particular case.
First of all we do not recommend using a service that is based in the UK. Obviously it would fall under the same legislation and it would defeat the purpose of privacy since it will be forced by the government to log the browsing history of its users. We recommend to use VPNs that have servers in Europe, which should guarantee a fast connection from UK. Make sure that you understand the fact that nothing is 100% sure, 100% anonymous or 100% safe. Avoid marketing gimmicks such as “military grade encryption” or “browse 100% anonymously now” as they are untrue and often denote a weak service focused on profit rather than the client’s privacy. It’s recommended to avoid free services when it comes to privacy. However, some free services seem to be ok and still give an extra protection compared to “no protection” you’re getting by connecting directly to the websites you visit. One such service is the built-in VPN/proxy in Opera Browser that performed well in our tests.
A second option to protect your browsing habits is to use Tor Browser. While it is free, there are two big disadvantages: it can be painfully slow and it can make the browsing experience quite annoying due to CAPTCHA filling required on many websites.