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 965.

    Whats wrong with the current system? why is it a problem to have to apply to a magistrate to monitor a terrorist? This really is on a whole new level. And it makes me completely sick to read about it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 964.

    Sounds exciting to me; we can have a revolution, and enigma codes, and secret sects again!

  • rate this

    Comment number 963.


    This generations protest song

    PlanB has done a lot to get his voice heard

    His music was never meant to be mainstream but he made a mainstream album to be noticed

    Now hes gone back to writing his real music and trying to do his bit to stop the corruption



  • rate this

    Comment number 962.

    So the Home Office said action was needed to "maintain the continued availability of communications data as technology changes".

    Are they already opening my post then?

    Welcome to 1984

  • rate this

    Comment number 961.

    Let the Government do it? They're not going to look at what YOU personally do unless your attracting attention to yourself? So if you don't want to be flagged up and watched then don't attract the attention, It seems fair to me afterall as mentioned below Google monitors everything, Twitter sells access to our tweets why cant government do it? Its safer than letting companies have access

  • rate this

    Comment number 960.

    Time to leave this country. I expect this sort of crud from the fascistic NL control freaks, but when it comes from a supposedly libertarian conservative government then you know that time is up. No doubt they will pass on any information gleaned to the EU so that we can be arrested with an EU arrest warrant. 1984 was supposed to be a work of fiction, not a potential training manual.

  • rate this

    Comment number 959.

    The difference between the previous Labour government and the current coalition? Simple, the former waged war against other countries the latter wages war against its own people. Not much of a choice between 'em is there? They're still "The Government" with its heel on our collective necks. Whether or not you like & support your jailer alters not the fact that your jailer is still your jailer ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 958.

    This is a complete breach of my privacy. How DARE they think they can monitor what I send to people, what sites I look at and all of that. This is the most rediculous thing I have ever heard. This country is fast becoming like George Orwell's 1984.

  • rate this

    Comment number 957.

    This form of data collection is massively open to abuse by Governments, criminals, corrupt officials and the people I trust least in all countries, the secret service.

  • rate this

    Comment number 956.

    For the gentleman who stated that Google, Facebook etc... has been collecting our data for years and asked how that is different from the government, it is quite simple. Google, Facebook, etc... do not control the legal system, nor do they have an army under their control or a police force at their finger tips. That is the one key difference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 955.

    I can assure you all it is not an April's fool prank BT lost there appeal against stopping this from happening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 954.

    European Convention Human Rights

    Article 8 – Right to respect for private and family life
    1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 953.

    And you probably thought that North Korea was the last totaliltarian state in the world. Welcome to the new British Empire of Big Brother. Remember how in Orwell's 1981 the state could 'see' your every move well now they can watch you through you cell phone's camera! This is no doubt at the behest of US intelligence to accumulate a database. Will the British royals e-mails be spied on as well?

  • rate this

    Comment number 952.

    Not read the entire article but is this an April Fools' joke or the cold icy finger of paranoid communism, what with Disasterous Dave Cameron's, "We're in it all together" and "Big society" and all?

  • rate this

    Comment number 951.

    Hopefully, this is just an April Fool prank orchestrated by the Government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 950.

    If this is for real I can only conclude Cameron must have a bet on with someone to see how far behind he can get in the opinion polls by Easter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 949.

    I sometimes wonder if crime and terrorism are the best things to ever happen to the UK and US governments. They take full advantage of both to gain as much control, power and surveillance over the population as possible. Everytime a new civil liberty is destroyed by the government its the same old "tackling crime and terrorism". Well I have news for them, we are NOT terrorists so p1$$ off!

  • rate this

    Comment number 948.

    This is absolutely typical of politicians in this country.

    In opposiiton the Conservatives - rightly - lambasted Labour for creating a culture of mass surveillance.

    So now they are in Government, they take steps to roll back the surveillance culture and undo the damage done, right?

    Wrong. They attempt to extend it far beyond anything Labour did.

    Sadly, folks, the Government is NOT on our side.

  • rate this

    Comment number 947.

    This is no different to someone looking through your window, or a "peeping tom". Personally, although this change MAY help tackle terrorism and other internet related crimes, it will just put more strain on the normal individual. Also, the data they collect will no doubt be stored, and, for example if they were to be attacked, NORMAL people's information could be at risk, and nobody to blame...

  • rate this

    Comment number 946.

    Happy April fools BBC! Good try though, foolde lots of people here!


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