GCHQ: the spying continues

Updated 18/11/16: The Investigatory Powers Bill will now officially become law in the UK. Don't want the government to know what you are doing online? Get ZenMate now.

In early June 2013 knowledge of what many of us had already suspected became a reality. Whistle-blower Edward Snowden published the infamous documents exposing the NSA and the spying they had been conducting upon millions of citizens. The documents continued to be released and continued to reveal the monumental extent that government organisations, most notably the NSA and GCHQ, were surveilling civilians through mobile phone data and gaming platforms. As well as spying upon their political associates such as the Israeli Prime Minister and German government organisations.

Although these documents were at the forefront of the American press, the daze amongst the British was vast. We always suspected that our friends across the pond denied civil liberties to their people, but now we were forced to confront our own ignorance as the Wikileaks documents proved that GCHQ had been watching it's citizens through illegitimate surveillance, and unapologetically continues to do so.

What's more, GCHQ not only openly spies upon its citizens, but also accepted payment from the NSA to carry out this huge invasion of privacy. This financial support demonstrates the strength between the UK and US government bodies and how they work hand in hand to exploit civil liberties. Moreover this demonstrates the strong influence that America carries over Britain. And now with Theresa's May's Snoopers Charter becoming law we as cyber citizens have even more to be concerned about as we have less control surrounding our cyber freedom.

The so-called 'Snooper's Charter' is problematic as security organisations, such as GCHQ and the police, will have access to communications data if the information is seen to help their investigations. Data like your internet history will be stored for up to twelve months; communication providers will, by law, have to store all their data and pass over any information upon request. This means any website you visit will be tracked and recorded, for up to a year. And this kind of invasion upon our internet privacy will be legal. Thus giving us virtually no rights surrounding our privacy and confidentiality.

But there may be a loophole for the average internet user - virtual private networks. The draft of the bill made no mention of VPNs; this suggests there may still be hope for your internet freedom. VPNs, like ZenMate, allow you to disguise your location and surf the web anonymously to protect yourself from identity thieves, massive conglomerates or government bodies. This loophole may be the answer to ensuring Brits right to privacy. Yet while VPN’s give us the opportunity to feel protected, it is disturbing and beyond frustrating that we need to take these measures to protect ourselves against agencies like GCHQ and the NSA.

So under the new law, which will be passed in the next couple of weeks, using a VPN is definitely the average internet users best way to protect themselves, at least for now. Because Britain’s cyber budget just doubled. All in the name of “protection” but what about the protection of our privacy?