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
Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week