Home Secretary Theresa May has unveiled government plans to introduce a new bill that would enable the security services to track the electronic communications of the UK’s citizens.
The bill, which has been released in draft form, has already received a great deal of criticism from civil liberty campaigners. But May attempted to defend the legislation, stating: “It’s not about the content, it’s not about reading people’s emails or listening to their telephone calls. This is purely about the who, when and where made these communications and it’s about ensuring we catch criminals and stop terrorists.”
As the law currently stands, communications companies have to keep phone records and email logs for a year. This new bill would see them hold onto a much wider range of data.
It would require internet service providers to hold onto details of people’s every move, including use of social media sites, activity in gaming sites – many of which are being used by terrorists to communicate – and the websites that are visited, although pages within websites would not be recorded.
Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police commissioner supports the government proposals to bring in this new surveillance legislation. He said that enabling police to access this kind of data was essential in the war on crime. In an article in the Times, he said: “Put simply, the police need access to this information to keep up with the criminals who bring so much harm to victims and our society.”
Tory backbencher, David Davis who is an outspoken critic of the bill said it was “incredibly intrusive”.
He also believed that the new legislation would not be effective in catching the kind of criminals that it is being introduced to apprehend. On BBC Radio 4’s Today program, he said: “The only people who will avoid this are the actual criminals, because there are ways around this – you use an internet cafe, you hack into somebody’s wi-fi, you use what’s called proxy servers, and they are just the easy ways.”