UK spying laws: Re-drafted Investigatory Powers Bill expands police power to look at people's entire internet history

Many of the most controversial powers remain in the bill, despite extended criticism from experts

The new Investigatory Powers Bill will allow the police to look into all of everyone's internet browsing history.

Theresa May has presented the re-drafted bill as including new provisions for user privacy. But a key part of the bill expands the powers that police have to look at Internet Connection Records (ICRs) — a full list of every website that a person has connected to.

Internet service providers (ISPs) must hold on to the browsing histories of all of their users for a year, and hand them over to authorities when required to.

The draft bill also vastly expands the police's hacking powers, allowing every force to hack into a computer. It expands that same power to some public authorities, like tax officers and the Home Office itself.

In earlier versions of the bill, police access to those records was limited to seeing the illegal websites that a person had read. But police will now be able to see all of a person's browsing history, if officers believe it relevant to certain investigations.

The use of the powers is not subject to the same controls that safeguard other parts of the bill, and will not require a warrant.

The changes come after extended pressure by the police, which was reported last year to be lobbying the government to widen its powers within the new bill. Police said that they needed to extra powers because of the increasingly sophisticated nature of online crime.

The Government and police have argued that ICRs only offer something like a telephone record, showing which specific sites a person connected to. But since internet browsing is much more sophisticated and tends to lead to much richer data, many have pointed out that it would be possible to learn a great deal about a person from a full list of their browsing history.

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