Who can view your browsing history? If you’re based in the UK, it turns out that a wide range of government agencies can – and if this doesn’t surprise you, then the length of the list itself might.
Back in November 2016, the UK government passed the Investigatory Powers Act through royal assent. Hailed by those in support of the bill as a way to better protect British citizens, it was given the ignominious title of the “Snoopers’ Charter” by critics of it.
As reported by the Guardian at the time, it demanded that web and phone companies must store everyone’s browsing histories for 12 months, and permit the police, security services and a variety of state-run agencies to access it whenever they wish during that period of time.
At the same time, it allows the security services to use many of their powers to infiltrate communications equipment and collect data in bulk – as long as such requests are signed off by a judge.
Although the pros and cons of this legislative maneuver can certainly be debated in a different forum, the technological tendrils of the bill have some clear privacy implications. That’s partly why Chris Yiu – a Senior Policy Fellow for Technology at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change – published a list back in 2016 detailed which UK agencies can view your browsing history and digital communiques.
Here it is in its entirety.
– Metropolitan police force
– City of London police force
– Police forces maintained under section 2 of the Police Act 1996
– Police Service of Scotland
– Police Service of Northern Ireland
– British Transport Police
– Ministry of Defence Police
– Royal Navy Police
– Royal Military Police
– Royal Air Force Police
– Security Service
– Secret Intelligence Service
– Ministry of Defence
– Department of Health
– Home Office
– Ministry of Justice
– National Crime Agency
– HM Revenue & Customs
– Department for Transport
– Department for Work and Pensions
– NHS trusts and foundation trusts in England that provide ambulance services
– Common Services Agency for the Scottish Health Service
– Competition and Markets Authority
– Criminal Cases Review Commission
– Department for Communities in Northern Ireland
– Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland
– Department of Justice in Northern Ireland
– Financial Conduct Authority
– Fire and rescue authorities under the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004
– Food Standards Agency
– Food Standards Scotland
– Gambling Commission
– Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority
– Health and Safety Executive
– Independent Police Complaints Commissioner
– Information Commissioner
– NHS Business Services Authority
– Northern Ireland Ambulance Service Health and Social Care Trust
– Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Board
– Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Regional Business Services Organisation
– Office of Communications
– Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland
– Police Investigations and Review Commissioner
– Scottish Ambulance Service Board
– Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission
– Serious Fraud Office
– Welsh Ambulance Services National Health Service Trust
At the time, Yiu – on his blog post – opined: “I always wondered what it would feel like to be suffocated by the sort of state intrusion that citizens are subjected to in places like China, Russia, and Iran. I guess we’re all about to find out.”
Although it’s debatable as to how hyperbolic that particular thought is, it’s safe to say that few would find the length of that list jarring.