Judges instead of the Home Secretary should authorise the vast majority of warrants to intercept the contents of phone calls, emails and texts, a review of the security services’ powers to monitor online communications has concluded.
David Anderson, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said the multiplicity of laws governing covert surveillance was “undemocratic, unnecessary and in the long run intolerable”.
He called for a “clean slate” approach to the issue, urging the Government to draw up a “comprehensive and comprehensible” new law to govern the surveillance activities of police and the intelligence services.
Mr Anderson also recommended that they should be allowed to continue to request details of emails and phone calls, but not their contents, subject to new safeguards.
And he said that communications companies should supply information to the security services on how to read encrypted messages – for instance on instant messaging apps – but “only after properly-authorised requests”.
But he concluded the case had not yet been made for communications companies to store the internet browsing history of customers, a blow to ministers’ support for wide-ranging “snoopers’ charter” powers.
Mr Anderson, who was commissioned by the Government last year to review surveillance legislation, said: “Each intrusive power must be shown to be necessary, clearly spelled out in law, limited in accordance with international human rights standards and subject to demanding and visible safeguards.”