Senior lecturer in computing at Liverpool John Moores University, Brett Lempereur is live-streaming websites he’s visiting on the Internet in real time in an effort to show how invasive the proposed Investigatory Powers Bill will be, should it pass in the UK. It would require Internet service providers to keep records of every website a person visited for a maximum of 12 months. On top of that, police would not need a warrant to look at these records.
“I’m not sure if people get the scope of the ‘snooper’s charter’ that is still on the table. So, I’ll be using the extension in this repository to stream my web browsing metadata in real-time to anyone that cares to look at it for a while,” Lempereur wrote on GitHub.
Surveillance is an abstract concept when it’s impossible to see what’s being logged. I know getting my family members and friends to retrain their muscle memory from typing in Google to DuckDuckGo, a search engine that doesn’t log your queries, or download Signal, an app that allows users to send encrypted texts and calls, is like pulling teeth. Why? They either don’t think it matters or don’t want to be inconvenienced.
Lempereur is letting everything show on his site, Ireacharound (a play on the NSA’s search engine IREACH). He warns that some of the content on the site may be NSFW (not safe for work). But this isn’t anything the government wouldn’t be able to see if the Investigatory Powers Bill passes.
“Their browsing habits and their personal preferences can be identified, for example how much pornography they have viewed. I have certainly been self-censoring what I have been viewing,” he said in an interview with Wired. But he admitted that was partially because his web content is being openly published.
Lempereur believes that “[s]urveillance on this scale would have an impact on people’s behaviour on the Internet,” he added. But that’s only if people acknowledge they’re being watched.
When the threat of our actions becoming visible is obvious — when we know we’re being watched — we tend to change our behavior. However, the government likely won’t pin an all-seeing eye to your browser if this bill is passed. There will be no warning reading, “Your content will be logged,” before you enter each site. It’s out of sight, out of mind — because the government doesn’t want you to think about being watched. Just act natural.
But the Chrome browser extension Lempereur has developed displays an icon of UK Home Secretary Theresa May “sitting in your browser looking at what you’re doing.” The extension is available on GitHub.