Plans to give police access to all UK internet users browsing history are expected to be announced this Wednesday.
Words: Corey Armishaw Sub Editor: Daisy Greenway
A new surveillance bill would make it a legal requirement for all telecoms and internet service providers to store all customers browsing history for 12 months, according to reports.
Dubbed a revival of the so-called “Snooper’s Charter” (which was shelved after opposition from the Liberal Democrats during the coalition), the new bill would allow authorities to access specific web addresses people had visited.
However, approval from a judge would be required to view the content of the websites, emails and social media messages. Unlike the shelved communications bill, which would have required the storing of phone, email, social media, internet gaming and browsing data, among other things.
Home Secretary Theresa May, believed the new powers were necessary to stop “not just terrorism from overseas and home-grown in the UK, but also industrial, military and state espionage.
“In the face of such threats we have a duty to ensure that the agencies whose job it is to keep us safe have the powers they need to do the job.”
Many believe the case for demanding records of web history is yet to be made. Conservative MP David Davis told the Times: “It’s extraordinary they’re asking for this again, they are overreaching and there is no proven need to retain such data for a year.”
Richard Berry, spokesman for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, commented on the new bill saying the police were not looking for anything beyond what they could already access through telephone records.
But this raises important questions over the necessity of these new powers. Either the police can already access the information they need via telecommunications, therefore making the new powers unnecessary, or in reality they are looking for information they couldn’t previously access.
Furthermore, Berry claimed they want to “police by consent”. However, many would argue that ensuring the law is changed to allow you to do what you want, isn’t technically “consent”.
The problem with the new #SnoopersCharter is trying to fit the law around the spying, rather than making spying fit the law. It’s backwards.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) November 4, 2015
The effectiveness of the new powers could also be questioned. Knowledgeable criminals will be fully aware of how to conceal their activities using VPN or even Tor, a free software for enabling anonymous communication, colloquially referred to as “Dark Web”.
If this was the case, perhaps we can expect a new bill in the future to criminalise concealment of identity and legalising further surveillance measures, to ensure the authorities can continue to “police by content”.