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In the news - government snooping?

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Alex Duin Alex Duin | 18:50 UK time, Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Most of us value our privacy very highly. We'd feel rather violated if we found out that our partners were secretly listening in on our phone calls or opening personal letters. But now, critics are saying that the government is planning to do exactly this with our internet use - so is that any different?

BBC News has reported that the coalition government are proposing that existing laws requiring internet service providers to log communications be extended and that GCHQ (the UK listening intelligence agency) should be able to monitor internet use in 'real-time',  ie at the same time it's being used and without a warrant.

The new law's supporters say that this expansion is necessary to catch up with rogue elements who increasingly turn to digital technology to organise themselves. In The Sun, Home Secretary Theresa May said that "there are no plans for any big government database. No one is going to be looking through ordinary people's emails or Facebook posts. Only suspected terrorists, paedophiles or serious criminals will be investigated."

The law is receiving heavy criticism however, even from within the government's own Conservative members. In that same Sun article, former candidate for the Tory leadership David Davis retorted that "whenever a government announces plans to snoop on British citizens, the argument is always the same - it needs the new law to stop terrorists. But we already have a law that lets the secret services eavesdrop on suspected criminals and terrorists."

If it goes ahead, the new law is expected to be announced at this year's Queen's Speech.

To find out more about some of these issues, why not check out the WebWise guide to the UK's internet laws?

Alex Duin has spent his whole life wading through technology and the media, and in the process has worked and written all over the place, including for Channel 4, and Digital Unite. He divides his time between London and Manchester.


  • Comment number 1.

    This is a huge movement for the online industry. If coalition governments law proposition gets a 'good to go' sign and the Queen announces this year, there will no longer be a clear line of privacy. Instead, the UK listening intelligence would have full access to anyone's web or chat records. So like I run a site about gaming, would I have to give up backend access and chat logs? This might sound quite appealing for online policing for terrorists, paedophiles and all sorts of criminals, but I'm sure this might bring quite an uproar for billions of other normal internet users.


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