Email and web use 'to be monitored' under new laws


Senior Conservative backbencher David Davis criticised the plans

Related Stories

The government will be able to monitor the calls, emails, texts and website visits of everyone in the UK under new legislation set to be announced soon.

Internet firms will be required to give intelligence agency GCHQ access to communications on demand, in real time.

The Home Office says the move is key to tackling crime and terrorism, but civil liberties groups have criticised it.

Tory MP David Davis called it "an unnecessary extension of the ability of the state to snoop on ordinary people".

Attempts by the last Labour government to take similar steps failed after huge opposition, including from the Tories.

'Unprecedented step'

A new law - which may be announced in the forthcoming Queen's Speech in May - would not allow GCHQ to access the content of emails, calls or messages without a warrant.

But it would enable intelligence officers to identify who an individual or group is in contact with, how often and for how long. They would also be able to see which websites someone had visited.

In a statement, the Home Office said action was needed to "maintain the continued availability of communications data as technology changes".

Start Quote

The government will be able to get at it with no by or leave from anybody”

End Quote David Davis Conservative MP and former shadow home secretary

"It is vital that police and security services are able to obtain communications data in certain circumstances to investigate serious crime and terrorism and to protect the public," a spokesman said.

"As set out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review we will legislate as soon as parliamentary time allows to ensure that the use of communications data is compatible with the government's approach to civil liberties."

But Conservative MP and former shadow home secretary David Davis said it would make it easier for the government "to eavesdrop on vast numbers of people".

"What this is talking about doing is not focusing on terrorists or criminals, it's absolutely everybody's emails, phone calls, web access..." he told the BBC.

"All that's got to be recorded for two years and the government will be able to get at it with no by your leave from anybody."

He said that until now anyone wishing to monitor communications had been required to gain permission from a magistrate.

"You shouldn't go beyond that in a decent civilised society, but that's what's being proposed."

'Attack on privacy'

Nick Pickles, director of the Big Brother Watch campaign group, called the move "an unprecedented step that will see Britain adopt the same kind of surveillance seen in China and Iran".

Start Quote

It is a pretty drastic step in a democracy”

End Quote Shami Chakrabarti Liberty

"This is an absolute attack on privacy online and it is far from clear this will actually improve public safety, while adding significant costs to internet businesses," he said.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, added: "This is more ambitious than anything that has been done before. It is a pretty drastic step in a democracy."

The Internet Service Providers Association said any change in the law must be "proportionate, respect freedom of expression and the privacy of users".

The Sunday Times quoted an industry official who warned it would be "expensive, intrusive [and] a nightmare to run legally".

Even if the move is announced in the Queen's Speech, any new law would still have to make it through Parliament, potentially in the face of opposition in both the Commons and the Lords.

The previous Labour government attempted to introduce a central, government-run database of everyone's phone calls and emails, but eventually dropped the bid after widespread anger.

The then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith did pursue efforts similar to those being revisited now, but the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats continued to voice their concerns.

The shadow home secretary at the time, Chris Grayling, said the government had "built a culture of surveillance which goes far beyond counter terrorism and serious crime".

Chris Huhne, then the Lib Dem home affairs spokesman, said any legislation requiring communications providers to keep records of contact would need "strong safeguards on access", and "a careful balance" would have to be struck "between investigative powers and the right to privacy".


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 925.

    what a lots of bull, whatever you post it does not show, so do not bother!

  • rate this

    Comment number 924.

    people are seriously gullible! It's Sunday, April 1st 2012. Obviously an April fools joke. How can anyone believe this 'news story'? Use your brains people!

  • rate this

    Comment number 923.

    887.Andrew K

    It's like the government wants more riots to happen!
    Of course they do,otherwise how can they gauge just how far the forces of law & order,be they Police or the armed forces are prepared to drench,or even batter their own kith & kin for a few paltry pieces of silver.

    It worked for that woman,so they'll happily do it again,all in the name of freedom & democracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 922.

    @Ian People are opposed to this and not details we give to social networks because, well, I just gave you the answer didn't I? We give details to social networks knowingly. This government initiative is something we didn't sign on to and would be forced upon us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 921.

    Re: 883. Mr Soft
    "...we have to resist this level of unwarranted and unjustified prying, or at least insist on a court order to release the info."
    Thanks for that one, been wanting a laugh all day. I wouldn't have that much faith in the courts were I you. They too are part of a "system," one which appears to have been set up mainly to benefit only a select few, rather than the many.

  • rate this

    Comment number 920.

    Governments suck up at election time, other times we're either "the enemy" therefore not to be trusted and watched constantly, traditional socialist stance on national security issues. Or we're viewed as moronic idiots who'd better do as they're told if we know what's good for us the traditional rightist stance on national security issues.
    I'm with P-J Proudhon on the subject of state meddling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 919.

    @818. OnTopic: We don't have "public servants" but "Crown servants", where the "Crown" refers to the government doing that previously reserved to the monarch under royal prerogative. The government has a duty to a Parliament, supreme in the sense that judicial review reins in ultra vires activity, but not to the people.

    Q: which gov friend stands to get rich selling monitoring software?

  • rate this

    Comment number 918.

    Its amazing as to how many people find this surprising. Its as if they don't know they live in a capitalist state with a series of classes headed by a bourgeosie, who most people won't even know exist,protected by a puppet government that claims to represent people.
    Read Das Kapital guys, with an open mind instead of with the prejudiced view that these creeps would have you do. You are fodder.

  • rate this

    Comment number 917.

    @810 'Doctor Bob'.
    Let's not forget it was not just German citizens who were slaughtered up to, and including WWII. Many races, creeds, colour, religion from ALL backgrounds were killed by the Nazi regime too as it expanded.

    In addition, bless those armed forces from across the world of many races, creeds, colour and religion died to fight the Nazi war machine born from extremist ideology.

  • rate this

    Comment number 916.

    I assume this is an April Fool. Nice one!

  • rate this

    Comment number 915.

    Does any one else think the coalition is a bit too close to high powered executives to allow them to read everyones emails?

    In the same week we have denied an appeal of a 56 day sentance for an ugly racist rant on twitter, we want to give them more ways to find us guilty?

    We have already lost the freedom to have a re-election, that is the first thing they did when they got in power. What next?

  • rate this

    Comment number 914.

    Its only when you go to use your freedom that you discover you have none.

  • rate this

    Comment number 913.

    Why are the public never consulted? The government have a very bad habbit of sneaking through legislation in the middle of the night whether people like it or not.Many people do not want to live in a nanny surveillance-state this gov are intent on creating. We pay our income tax, VAT and many other taxes and vote to put the gov in power.They should bow down to the British people, not dictate to us

  • rate this

    Comment number 912.

    This Law also requires people using codes to lodge the keys with the authotiries.

    Your telephone has been bugged ever since digiotal telephoney came in - by the USA.

    Transcript evidence cannot be revealed to coroners and magistrates.

    You don't need to have something to hide, as many Twitter users have found when reaching US airports, or discussing news items on private message boards.

  • rate this

    Comment number 911.

    The government claims that this will help with national security, complete twaddle. It will be ordinary people who will have their private emails and such snooped on by the state, all the while it allows known threats to the UK remain in the country due to their Human Rights. Hows about going after the real threat or is that to much of a HR issue? Guess its easy to harass the general public.

  • rate this

    Comment number 910.

    Now all this government needs to do, to ensure absolute and unbreakable power, is to legislate for 'safe' online, electronic voting .....

  • rate this

    Comment number 909.

    So now we have the Lib Dems conniving with the Tories to crush civil liberties in this country. What next from Cameron and Clegg - opening my post? Why not, the principle is exactly the same. And to the idiot who said if you're happy to be open on Facebook etc why object to the Govt seeing it, it's a matter of choice what you put online but this proposal would allow the vetting of EVERYTHING!

  • rate this

    Comment number 908.

    I assume this is because they fear massive social unrest is on the way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 907.

    So with this in place, please point out where the UK and China or Singapore now differ in terms of their policies regarding individual freedom, especially on the internet? All claim to be democracies. Why should China make any efforts to scale back their "Great Fire Wall" if it is clear to them that the west is has every intention of following where China has led?

  • rate this

    Comment number 906.

    An extremely nefarious character - an absolute wrongun - i'm quaking in my boots at the thought of what will happen when Her Majesty's Government eventually catches up wiv the likes of Me!


Page 42 of 88


More Politics stories



  • Nigel Farage (left) and Douglas CarswellWho's next?

    The Tory MPs being tipped to follow Carswell to UKIP

  • A painting of the White House on fire by Tom FreemanFinders keepers

    The odd objects looted by the British from Washington in 1814

  • President Barack Obama pauses during a press conference on 28 August.'No strategy'

    Obama's gaffe on Islamic State reveals political truth

  • Chris and Regina Catrambone with their daughter Maria LuisaSOS

    The millionaires who rescue people at sea

  • Plane7 days quiz

    What unusual offence got a Frenchman thrown off a plane?

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.