Welcome to another episode of the UK’s slide into a right-wing totalitarian state. The government, cravenly unopposed by the supine opposition, just signed the Snooper’s Charter into law. This is a monumentally bad idea, and a worse one is coming in the form of the Digital Economy Bill.
The state, in the form of more or less any agency that cares to ask for it, can now find out every website you visited in the last year from your internet service provider. They don’t even need a warrant. Let that sink in for a while. Even if you have nothing to hide and are doing nothing wrong, the information that a junior civil servant can punch up about you is very worrying. And of course, the records will be hacked or sold corruptly to the tabloids or anyone who wants them.
If you live in Britain, the government have effectively just installed webcams pointing in through every window in your house.
I urge everyone reading this who lives in the UK to install and start using a VPN (virtual private network). Choose one that’s registered in another country, that doesn’t keep logs, and choose one that you pay for. British ones have to obey the same snooping laws to spy on you that your internet service provider does. Free ones sell your data, which is the opposite of what you want. And if the company doesn’t keep logs, they don’t even have the information to pass on.
This is not a panacea. It means placing some trust in the VPN operator, for a start. But if they make their money by running the service, it is in their interests to do a good job for you.
A VPN routes your internet activity through its internal network so outsiders can’t see where you are going. It also encrypts the data as it goes to make it hard to snoop on. All your ISP can report to the government is that you are using a VPN: they can’t tell them which sites you have visited or anything much else. They’ve been used by companies for years to allow people to connect to the company’s internal network whist working away so they don’t have to worry about security at random free wifi hotspots. They are a mature and well-integrated technology which integrates easily with modern devices (for example, iPhones bring up a little “VPN” icon when you’re connected).
This was already pretty good practice for protection against hacking and cyber-crime. State-sponsored intrusion into ALL our private lives is on a whole different level, though, and I really must urge everyone in the UK to do something to limit the information that a junior civil servant or policeman can find out about you. It’s only a matter of months before the records are hacked, too, and some poor celebrity’s choice of porn will be splashed all over the tabloids. The number of people suddenly having access to everything you’ve looked at online will be HUGE, and corrupt release of records or out and out hacking the database is pretty much a certainty.
If you are very concerned, you can use Tor. In fact you can use Tor over a VPN, but this slows things down a lot. A well-run VPN should have relatively minimal impact on your connection speed.
The state has just installed CCTV pointing in through every window in your house. A VPN is drawing the curtains. If you live in the UK, I strongly urge you to install and use a VPN right now.
You can find out some good ones here: http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/test-centre/internet/best-vpn-2016-2017-uk-what-is-vpn-3641578/