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


Senior Conservative backbencher David Davis criticised the plans

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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".


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  • rate this

    Comment number 945.

    903. powermeerkat 8 MINUTES AGO

    Which one? Take your pick.

    I am a news international mossad agent. Apparently.

    Look at this HYS! Its absolutely full of paranoia. Narcissism. 1984 insanity. Etc.

    Seriously....think about it. Who wants to read our dull emails?

    They would get bored after the first 10.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 944.

    "A new law... 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."
    Who is to say that has been "unofficially" happening for years?
    Careful what you text your absent lover before you sleep, people, some Intelligence Officer could be recording...... YUCCCCCCK!

  • rate this

    Comment number 943.

    Bond between government and the people is pretty tenuous these days.
    However they couch it .. only to be used against bad people.. this is one step beyond too far. Becomes government against people, and isn't easily reversed. Perhaps if all MPs had free access to monitor each others emails, phone-calls, & Westminster bar-talk, they might shrink back a little. I guess you can't legislate for fools

  • rate this

    Comment number 942.

    The problem with these types of laws, similar to the Prevention of Terrorism Act, is that it starts out being used by GCHQ and ultimately ends up with local Councils and Police forces using it for anything they please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 941.

    So, they were against it when Labour was in power - but they are all for it now? Typical Tory hypocrisy.

    Those who say if you don't do anything you have nothing fear may be right - but they may be wrong, too. Just remember that the Tories sell everything to make money....

  • Comment number 940.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 939.

    In the inerests of public safety or some individual seeking to encourage mass criminal action is one thing but I think we all know this is going to be used in petty one on one rows. I can even consider an argument to gather evidence of individuals who are involved in some of the worst behaviours that hurt just a few or one. There is an off button btw.

  • rate this

    Comment number 938.

    They cant sort out the cleric who preaches hatred against the tax payer that keeps him in the life of luxury, but they think they can sort the internet out.
    April fool stops at 12 midday.

  • rate this

    Comment number 937.

    That is appalling and there is no gurantee that it would only be used for terrorism it could move to monitoring what people download and other personal behaviours that is no one elses' business . We are monitored so much mainly for marketing but society also as a whole - shouldn't we have at least one recreational activity that is unhindered by governmental interference and pry ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 936.

    887. Andrew K' It's like the government wants more riots to happen!'

    Indeed! A State provocation - an old method of divide and rule and ''panic'' the population. That has been Tory policy since the miners strike in 1994. They wanted a confrontation.

    Same today re tanker drivers' INDUSTRIAL dispute and Tory ''panic' policy. Also using the army as strike breakers in a LEGAL INDUSTRIAL dispute.

  • rate this

    Comment number 935.

    @172 Ian (editors pick) : The difference, which Ian has missed, is that neither Facebook nor Google have the ability to create a Police State...

  • rate this

    Comment number 934.

    If GCHQ wants to know what my tee-off time is next week the're only got to ask, indeed their welcome to know where I'm meeting an old friend for a pint.

    However if I wish not to volunteer this information thats up to me.
    The Statute Book is littered with bad oppressive legislation passed in the name of ''counter-terrorism''.

  • rate this

    Comment number 933.

    Do you trust our government? They are bent & corrupt and should have as little of our personal details as possible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 932.

    Were not free, we're slaves, freedom is too expensive for us all to be free,were kept down, dumb down the masses, thats the way it has always been we need to throw off our chains and then sample freedom to know we have always been in slavery, now go back to Eastenders and forget what you have heard and do as your told..... Wake up and do something.. Hello GCHQ...... Did I wake you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 931.

    nosey sooners???

  • rate this

    Comment number 930.

    April fools joke? If not, I guess this so called 'democracy' must be a figment of my imagination

  • rate this

    Comment number 929.

    I hope they are completely bored when they read our stuff. We're well known to both the UK and the US government anyways. Hubby has gone through immigration the the US once (obtained 10 year green card) and I have been through immigration to the UK twice (most recently last month) and they know absolutely everything about makes no difference to us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 928.

    I just hope this is an April Fool's joke. But if not HM Govt I have a message for you: I will not make any deals with you. I've resigned. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own. I resign. Like many others I am willing to stand up to any tyrant and you can file this in your email surveillance file under cat A1.

  • rate this

    Comment number 927.

    I am so hoping that this is an April Fools joke

  • rate this

    Comment number 926.


    yes they do.

    You have already got this generations protest song.

    Go to youtube and watch it.

    Make sure you listen to the words because lots of people are taking the video the wrong way.


    This year is make or break for our country.

    The government have had every chance to sort out the country but chose not to.

    Ask yourself why would they want civil unrest


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