In her presentation of the new Draft Investigatory Powers Bill in the House of Commons, UK Home Secretary Theresa May sensationally claimed that taking people’s metadata isn’t really that bad.
May was attempting to soothe concerns about the increased surveillance powers which could be given to the likes of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ and the bill’s proposal which would require Internet providers to retain details of websites visited by users over the last 12 months.
But her defence of the bill didn’t exactly go down a storm with some people, many of whom are already concerned about the effects that loosened encryption could have on Internet security as a whole.
An internet connection record is a record of the communication service that a person has used, not a record of every web page they have accessed.
So, if someone has visited a social media website, an Internet Connection Record will only show that they accessed that site, not the particular pages they looked at, who they communicated with, or what they said. It is simply the modern equivalent of an itemised phone bill.
Law enforcement agencies would not be able to make a request for the purpose of determining – for example – whether someone had visited a mental health website, a medical website or even a news website.
Journos: if officials say they aren't capturing your web history, push back. "Metadata" reveals every site you hit. pic.twitter.com/IpW6b56kxlAdvertisement
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) November 2, 2015
However, many technologically minded citizens have pointed out that simply finding out some of the sites people have accessed, can allow them to piece together a lot of data about an individual.
Keith Vaz, Labour MP for Leicester East, first called out May, pointing out: “If I were to look at your itemised telephone bill and you were to look at mine we might be surprised at who we were telephoning”.
However, according to TechDirt, a guy called Chris Gilmour has taken things to a whole new level entirely. He’s decided to test Theresa May’s resolve by accessing her own metadata through a Freedom of Information request.
His letter reportedly said:
Dear Home Office,
Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 I hereby request the following information from and regarding the Rt Hon Theresa May MP (Con), Secretary of State for the Home Department (the “Home Secretary”):
1) The date, time, and recipient of every email sent by the Home Secretary during October 2015.
2) The date, time, and sender of every email received by the Home Secretary during October 2015.
3) The date, time, and recipient of every internet telephony call (e.g. “Skype” call) made by the Home Secretary during October 2015.
4) The date, time, and sender of every internet telephony call (e.g. “Skype” call) received by the Home Secretary during October 2015.
5) The date, time, and domain address of every website visited by the Home Secretary during October 2015.
Whether anything comes of this will remain to be seen but, hopefully, we’ll find out very soon just how comfortable Theresa May is with people accessing her data!