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UK plans new internet ‘snooping’ powers

Two years after a draft bill seeking to compel ISPs to store communications data provoked ire and was finally abandoned, Britain is planning to give the police powers to forces ISPs to hand over details linked to IP addresses to help identify criminal suspects.

world Updated: Nov 24, 2014 00:45 IST

Two years after a draft bill seeking to compel ISPs to store communications data provoked ire and was finally abandoned, Britain is planning to give the police powers to forces ISPs to hand over details linked to IP addresses to help identify criminal suspects.

The 2012 Communications Data Bill was dubbed a ‘snooper’s charter’ for the wide range of powers it envisaged and its implications for individual privacy. It was dropped after the ruling coalition partner, Liberal Democrats, withdrew support to the bill.

Now Home secretary Theresa May is bringing a law that will force internet companies to hand over details to the police identifying who was using a computer or mobile phone at a given time.

The Liberal Democrats said the 2012 bill was ‘dead and buried’ but supported the new measures.

According to May, the measure, expected to be introduced in the House of Commons this week, would improve national security. Under the Anti-Terrorism and Security Bill, ISPs would have to hold on to data linking devices to users.

The move provoked renewed concern from privacy campaigners as well as senior Conservative MPs such as David Davis, who told BBC on Sunday, “Do you absolutely trust the people doing this never to make a mistake... never to misuse it? If you do, let the judges decide when they can do it - don’t let them decide whether they can do it themselves.”

May said the new bill would help security services “deal with the increased threat that we now see. This is a step but it doesn’t go all the way to ensuring that we can identify all the people we will need to.”

Emma Carr, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said, “Before setting her sights on reviving the snooper’s charter, the home secretary should address the fact that one of the biggest challenges facing the police is making use of the huge volume of data that is already available, including data from social media.”