Backlash over plans to monitor all internet use

Home Secretary hit by parliamentary backlash over scheme to extend powers to monitor emails

Theresa May faced criticism from across the political spectrum and from civil liberties groups yesterday over her plans to give police and security services the power to monitor the email traffic and internet use of every person in Britain.

The Information Commissioner Christopher Graham, who has previously made clear he does not believe such plans are justified - warned the Home Secretary that he would press for safeguards to protect privacy.

Amid criticism that the scheme runs counter to Tory and Liberal Democrat pre-election opposition to the "Big Brother" scheme, Ms May has been summoned before MPs to justify her proposals. Under legislation in next month's Queen's Speech, law enforcement agencies will gain extra powers to access information about contacts through Skype and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Internet companies will also reportedly be told to install hardware allowing GCHQ to examine "on demand" any phone call made, text message or email sent and website accessed, in "real time" and without a warrant. Similar proposals were abandoned in 2009 by the Labour government.

Downing Street said yesterday that any moves would cover details of when messages were sent and who the recipients were, but stressed it would not include the contents of calls and emails. The Prime Minister's spokesman also said the plans would be "consistent" with his commitment to civil liberties.

But Ms May, in an article in Tthe Sun today, launches a fierce defence of the plans, arguing that such data helps to catch killers and paedophiles.

However, Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs demanded a rethink. Dominic Raab, the Tory MP for Esher and Walton, predicted: "There will be a groundswell of opinion, both about the privacy aspects and the value of this as a law-enforcement measure. I'm sure that will spread to Conservative members, as well as Liberal Democrats."

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Conservative MP for North East Somerset, said: "The Government ought to remember why it favoured liberty in opposition."

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat president, said: "We didn't scrap identity cards to back creeping surveillance by other means. The state must not be able to trace citizens at will."

A spokeswoman for Mr Graham also made clear his unease at the proposals. She said: "The commissioner's role in this Home Office project, both under this government and the last, has been to press for the necessary limitations and safeguards to mitigate the impact on citizens' privacy."

She said he would continue to seek assurances and called for a thorough assessment of the impact of the plans on people's liberty. In an internal briefing 18 months ago, the commissioner's office said it did not support the retention of extra information - and raised doubts over its effectiveness in criminal investigations. The paper warned: "There needs to be some recognition that this additional data will be a honeypot as it will reveal the browsing habits of celebrities, politicians, etc." Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said he would call Ms May and Charles Farr, head of security and counter-terrorism at the Home Office. They would be asked "how information-sharing in real time between internet service providers and GCHQ will operate". and how it is different from what Labour suggested.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, said he "totally opposed" governments reading people's emails at will, but added: "All we are doing is updating the rules which currently apply to mobile telephone calls to allow the police and security services to go after terrorists and serious criminals and updating that to apply to technology like Skype."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
News
video
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Teachers Required in King's Lynn

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teachers needed in King's Ly...

Primary Teachers needed in Ely

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teacher needed in the Ely ar...

Teaching Assistant to work with Autistic students

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education Leicester ...

KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: KS2 Teacher needed in Peterborough a...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain