When Edward Snowden dragged digital surveillance into the spotlight a few years ago, many inconvenient truths were revealed about the UK government's snooping capabilities. But once the initial media and public uproar petered out, you could argue the leaks worked in the government's favour. It gave the Home Office a platform to admit various secretive surveillance powers, and update the law to protect them. That came with the Investigatory Powers Bill, a piece of legislation designed to consolidate and give transparency to existing surveillance powers, as well as introducing new ones entirely. And as of November 29th, the bill passed the final hurdle of royal assent, at which point it became law.
The Investigatory Powers Bill was first put forward in November 2015, and has been widely criticised for several reasons. As we explain in the video above -- with the help and insight of Dr. Ian Walden, Professor of Information and Communications Law at Queen Mary University of London -- the law introduces a new power that can compel internet and mobile providers to store details of your online activity for 12 months, and make it accessible to the government. The Act also effectively legalises state-sponsored hacking, and clarifies the government's use of mass surveillance tactics known as bulk powers.
Alongside the powers themselves, the Act creates a new framework of oversight intended to prevent abuse, which includes setting up an independent body tasked with reviewing and reporting on the government's surveillance activities. But there's an argument to be made that any amount of safeguarding doesn't justify the enshrining in law of these far-reaching and intrusive powers, which the government has been accused of rushing through the vetting process before the preceding surveillance law expired at the end of this year. Let the video above serve as your guide to the most important facets of the new, Investigatory Powers Act.