'Snooper's Charter' Proposals Are Unveiled
Controversial Government proposals to increase digital surveillance in Britain have been announced in the Queen's Speech.
The Home Office wants powers to monitor internet traffic, known as communications data, to keep track of serious criminals and terrorists.
But civil liberties campaigners have described the measures as a "Snooper's Charter" and a "dangerous" invasion of privacy.
Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, told Sky News: "We're really worried about these new plans for internet snooping, they represent a huge increase in the amount of surveillance government has that are really not appropriate.
"People need to be suspected before they're surveilled - that's how the law should work, but what the Government's saying is: 'Were going to treat you all as suspects, and ask you to trust us not to abuse that data.'
"These are very dangerous measures - they cross a line, they take us from targeting people that we suspect, to targeting everybody and really lowering the barriers of what the Government can find out about you without going through a court."
The new bill was revealed in the Queen's Speech on Wednesday, and the Prime Minister later addressed MPs on the issue.
It was "difficult and contentious legislation", but David Cameron said it was a matter of updating existing laws to cover new technology.
If the laws had not been updated when mobile phones came into use "there would be many, many unsolved cases", he said.
Mr Cameron told MPs: "I don't want to be the Prime Minister standing at this despatch box saying I could have done more to prevent terrorist acts but we didn't have the courage to take difficult steps."
Criminal justice professionals say the proposals are about keeping pace with the changes in technology - to catch paedophiles and terrorists - not reading your Facebook status.
In a recent operation in Lincolnshire, for example, codenamed Operation Alpine, police found an industrial-sized computer server hidden inside a cottage, which was used in the distribution of millions of images of child sex abuse.
Using that data, four men were convicted in the UK, and the email trail led them to hundreds more suspects worldwide.
Jim Gamble, former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), said: "What if we didn't have legislation that allowed us to keep up with the criminals, and in six years from now we weren't able to investigate rapists, child abusers or terrorists?
"People would be coming back and saying - what were you thinking of? Why didn't you put in the investment to make sure that you at least kept up with the criminal?"
The proposals would involve recording "communications data" - the digital fingerprint of who messaged who, when and where - not the actual content of the communication.
The Home Office says it is just an extension of existing powers to cover new technology, as more and more communication moves online, jeopardising the ability of police and security services to keep pace with criminals.
A recent estimate said 25% of requests for communications data by police and agencies could no longer be met.
But some have questioned the cost and the complexity of the operation this would involve.
Professor Peter Sommer, a digital forensics specialist who has acted as an expert witness in some of the country's biggest terrorism and paedophile trials, explained: "In the old-fashioned telephone, when you make a call, a physical connection is made between you and the person you are speaking to, via a series of switches.
"What makes the internet efficient is that you don't need all those direct lines, you just need one connection - all the information is put into what's called a packet and each packet will contain information about where it's coming from and where it's going to, and then the content of the packet.
"But separating the content from the communications data involves specialist hardware called 'deep packet inspection' as well as all the individual filters you'd need for all the different types of internet services, which will in turn need constantly updating, because as we all know - the internet is constantly changing - so there's a vast ongoing cost we have to contemplate."
The Home Office says it does have the technology to make this work, that the content of messages will not be accessed, and that these measures would only be used during criminal investigations, when they could be justified as "necessary and proportionate".
In other words, those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear.
But civil liberties groups are less than convinced. They say this is a digital line that, once crossed, will give the Government unprecedented access to monitor the internet.
what do you think?
Nay, nay and thrice nay. This is something the Stasi would be proud of.
If the government are talking about it now, you can be sure it is already in place, and has been for some time.
Not sure whether to be worried or not. The sheer volume of information they'll collect from this will make analyzing more than a fraction of it impossible, so they'll have to target their monitoring very carefully. We've been doing this for years already though, on a national/international intelligence level GCHQ at Cheltenham has been a world leader for all kinds of comms intercepts for decades. The police must need these changes in legislation to bring safer prosecutions. On the other hand, how many times has anti-terror legislation been misused by the authorities already, often just for taxation purposes?
This isn't about terrorism, this is about our dear gobsmiths increasing fear of Joe Bloggs' anger at the damage that is being done to his standard of living and the country by the politicians working in the best interests of their rich friends.
There are so many ways around them monitoring you anyway. Anyone with a brain would be able to find software through searches that can stop anyone tracking you. If a criminal was determined then they would find other means of communication. The Gov cant monitor everything, so i feel the gains are not worth the losses in freedom that will be very hard to get back.
I find leaving a message in a bottle highly effective as a means of communication!
"Anyone with a brain can find software online capable of stopping people tracking you."? ... Everything I ever downloaded or installed I never trusted or believed. I don't trust or believe my computer, my phones, my television or anything else. I only have to switch my television on to instantly see exactly why not. If the government think they can monitor everything we do, we can monitor everything they do because they are no different to us. Why is GCHQ shaped like a great big Mercedez Benz sign, anyway? ... The original idea of the internet was to just connect one computer to another. Now all we get is, click on a link and browse through millions of stupid apps which serve no practical or sensible purpose, most of which don't work and in order to make them work you have to pay even more money than it costs to buy a computer and internet anything whatsoever in the first place.
This is all part of the master plan- they know the world is changing and eventually there will be massive civil unrest in the UK. This about talking control of the masses. Keep us in toe and to put fear into us. Do as you're told or else! Terrorists my eye. For too long have we fallen for this brainwashing tripe. But we keep letting them do it to us. Marshal law is on the way people!
I think Cameron is getting few up with my jibes about him, Clegg and Osborne and wants to stop me. My taunts hit him very hard as I am a Conservative and he likes to pretend he is one while he betrays our country, dismantling our defences, encouraging TRurkey to join the EU, and splashing out OUR money on overseas aid while inflictinhg maximum pain at home.
Just cut Dave's quotation short to, "I don't want to be the prime minister." Take him at his word and problem solved! It'll be a fun day when the guy reading our messages finds one from his wife's bloke on the side!
Hmmm. should i be writing a comment on here or sending an email anymore? How do the govt think they'll b able to track everyone and find criminals? You can pick up an unregistered smart phone and log onto wifi anywhere without revealing your identity....now tell me how's that going to stop a criminal. This bill is going to be to look for the easy targets just like the Labour snooping bills designed to capture terrorists......beware Councils will be checking your bins soon with cameras, oh, that's already happened!
Seriously, this has been going on for years already. They're merely making it public now so they can act on information without back-lash. If you've nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear.
This is not about controlling terrorism, it's about state surveillence of it's people. They already have access to our bank accounts (ostensibly to counter money laundering), numerous state agencies have authority to enter your home, they take aerial photographs of your property (ostensibly to enforce property taxes), they want to track every journey you take in your car, they already control what we can or cannot say, they have removed personal choice and freedoms by taxing everything to the hilt, and we are expected to work till we drop to fund our leaders' ambitions. It's getting more like a communist didtatorship everyday.