The Government insists that its measures will strengthen oversight of surveillance
The Government insists that its measures will strengthen oversight of surveillance

Snooper's Charter calls on communications firms to store clients' phone and internet data for a year

Draft Bill will increase ability of intelligence services to obtain access to personal internet use of citizens

Nigel Morris
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 04 November 2015 01:05
Comments

Communications companies will be required to store records of customers’ phone and internet use for 12 months in long-awaited measures overhauling the laws on surveillance by the state being published today.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has dropped several measures from legislation – dubbed the “Snooper’s Charter” – which was blocked by the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition government.

But the draft Investigatory Powers Bill will come under attack from civil liberties groups for increasing the ability of the intelligence services to obtain access to the personal internet use of millions of citizens and to mount “data-mining” exercises.

It will also face criticism from MPs and peers from across the spectrum if it fails to transfer the authority to issue warrants from ministers to judges. Mass collection of information will enable GCHQ to launch the data-mining programmes which police and the intelligence agencies argue is crucial for tracking terrorists, as well as uncovering paedophiles and finding missing people.

The extent of surveillance by the Government’s Cheltenham listening-post was detailed in 2013 in documents obtained by the US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. The new Bill will put the practices on a statutory footing.

Edward Snowden recently claimed that GCHQ has the power to hack into phones without their owners' knowledge

Government sources said the measures will ensure any access to such internet connection records will be strictly limited. Much attention will focus on the system under which surveillance warrants are authorised. Ms May is expected to announce that they will initially be issued by Cabinet ministers but then be reviewed by security-cleared senior judges.

David Cameron described the Bill as “one of the most important pieces of legislation” before Parliament over the next five years. He told the Cabinet that its measures would go to “heart of the Government’s duty to keep the British public safe”.

Sources disclosed the legislation would strengthen the safeguards governing local authorities’ access to data. Councils will be fined if they abuse their powers and their access to records of internet, telephone and internet use will be strictly limited to investigation of criminal offences.

“Communications data is an essential tool for the full range of law enforcement, including serious offences investigated by local authorities like rogue traders and benefit fraud,” a source said. “Sometimes communications data is the only way to identify offenders, particularly where offences are committed online. it is important people understand that communications data is only ever used in a necessary, proportionate and accountable way.”

The draft Bill reflects wide agreement that the 15-year-old legislation governing communications is fragmented and outdated given the rapid pace of technological change.

The Government insists that its measures will strengthen oversight of surveillance and improve the transparency governing the intelligence services’ activities. It said it had blocked a request from the police to allow full access to web-browsing habits and ruled out banning the encryption of messages.

But Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty has condemned the Home Office for “frantic spinning” to distract attention from moves towards the blanket collection of private data.She accused the department of initially asking for the “most outrageous, even impractical, powers” so that even the smallest so-called concessions seem more reasonable.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in