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Despite months of debate, outrage by campaigners, and a petition signed by more than 130,000 people asking the UK government to repeal it, the... Word From Our Editor: Privacy, Security And VPNs – What The ‘Snooper’s Charter’ Means For You

Despite months of debate, outrage by campaigners, and a petition signed by more than 130,000 people asking the UK government to repeal it, the Investigatory Powers Bill has now received Royal Assent and is likely to become law early 2017.

According to the government, the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 will ensure that law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies ‘have the powers they need in a digital age to disrupt terrorist attacks, subject to strict safeguards and world-leading oversight.’

Big Brother is Watching You

Big Brother is watching you…

The new legislation brings together and updates existing powers while radically overhauling how they are authorised and overseen. It also creates one new power: the introduction of Internet Connection Records, which ‘will be accessible by law enforcement and the intelligence agencies to disrupt terrorist attacks and prosecute suspects.’

What this means in practice, is that internet providers will soon have to record your every online move – including ALL websites and messaging apps accessed. They must keep this information for one year and share it with some 48 (yes, FORTY EIGHT!) departments and organisations on demand.

The government acknowledges that some of the provisions in the Bill will require extensive testing and will not be in place ‘for some time’. It’s currently developing plans for implementing the provisions in the Bill, which mercifully this will be subject to consultation with industry and operational partners.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd is of course unequivocal about the need for new powers of surveillance and enforcement. She said: “The internet presents new opportunities for terrorists and we must ensure we have the capabilities to confront this challenge. But it is also right that these powers are subject to strict safeguards and rigorous oversight.

“The Investigatory Powers Act is world-leading legislation that provides unprecedented transparency and substantial privacy protection.”

However, it’s fair to say that Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world-wide web, is convinced about what have been described as ‘some of the most extreme and invasive surveillance powers ever given to spies in a democratic state.’

He told the BBC: “This snooper’s charter has no place in a modern democracy – it undermines our fundamental rights online. The bulk collection of everyone’s internet browsing data is disproportionate, creates a security nightmare for the ISPs who must store the data – and rides roughshod over our right to privacy. Meanwhile, the bulk hacking powers in the Bill risk making the internet less safe for everyone.”

Hmm, time to download a VPN then, me thinks!

For those that don’t know, a VPN (virtual private network) connects two computers securely and privately over the internet, even though it’s a public network. A VPN client on one computer connects to a VPN server on another computer and by using encryption and other security measures, no-one can see what information is being exchanged.

In order to gain access to the private network, a user must be authenticated using a unique identification and a password. Large corporations, educational institutions, and government agencies use VPN technology to enable remote users to securely connect to a private network.

So here are my suggestions for three great VPN solutions we have right here on FileHippo. As always, if you have any alternative solutions, we’d love to know! You can share your favourites on our Facbook page, or on Twitter.

tunnelbear logoTunnelBear
TunnelBear, available for WIndows and Mac, is an easy option for users who want to know their information is private but without installing a tinfoil liner in their homes or offices! With mobile app and desktop versions, as well as a freemium model for selecting how much data you need, it’s quickly becoming the go-to choice for VPNs. Key features include: private browsing – secure your data and hide your IP address behind a bear;  tracker blocking – block website trackers, including ads, analytics, scripts, social button, which track everything you do; and bypass country censorship – TunnelBear can ‘tunnel’ you around censorship and blocked sites.

Opera is a secure web browser available for Window and Mac, that’s both fast and rich in features. It has a slick interface that embraces a modern, minimalist look, coupled with stacks of tools to make browsing more enjoyable. These tools include a native, unlimited and free VPN client, right inside your browser! With a free, unlimited, native VPN that just works out-of-the-box and doesn’t require any subscription, Opera wants to make VPNs available to everyone.

VyprVPN, available for Windows and Mac, allows you to keep your location private by allowing you to switch easily to any one of the multiple global VPN server locations. Golden Frog, the makers of VyperVPN, own and manage their own VPN servers, so no other third party will be handling your data, making it more secure. With over 50 worldwide server locations, more than 700 servers and 200,000+ global IPs, you’re guaranteed a connection, with unlimited server switching and unlimited speeds.

You can check out our full range of VPN software here!