Britain to introduce legislation to monitor internet useApril 2nd, 2012 - 10:05 pm ICT by BNO News
LONDON (BNO NEWS) — The British government is to introduce new legislation next month which would allow intelligence agency GCHQ to monitor the calls, emails, texts and website visitors of everyone in the United Kingdom, the BBC reported on Sunday. The proposal has received a storm of criticism.
The BBC said the new legislation will require internet service providers to give GCHQ, Britain’s electronic ‘listening agency’, access to communications on demand, in real time, to investigate serious crime and terrorism. It would not allow GCHQ to access the data without a warrant.
The new legislation, which is expected to be announced in the Queen’s Speech in May, would enable intelligence officers to identify who an individual or group is in contact with, how often and for how long, although it will not include the actual content of phone calls and emails. But it would allow officers to see which websites someone has visited, the BBC reported.
In a statement, a Home Office spokesperson said the new legislation is needed to protect the public. “It is vital that police and security services are able to obtain communications data in certain circumstances to investigate serious crime and terrorism and to protect the public,” the spokesperson said. “We need to take action to maintain the continued availability of communications data as technology changes.”
The spokesperson said the new legislation would not change the legal basis to intercept communications, and intelligence officers would not be able to access the actual content of private communications. “Communications data includes time, duration and dialing numbers of a phone call, or an email address,” the spokesperson said. “It does not include the content of any phone call or email and it is not the intention of Government to make changes to the existing legal basis for the interception of communications.”
It was not immediately clear when such new legislation could take effect, but the proposal is certain to enrage civil liberties campaigners and politicians. Emma Carr of the Big Brother Watch campaign group called the proposal an ‘unprecedented step’ which would see Britain adopt the same kind of surveillance as China and Iran.
“As set out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review we will legislate as soon as parliamentary time allows to ensure that the use of communications data is compatible with the Government’s approach to civil liberties,” the Home Office spokesperson said.
A similar proposal was considered by the then-ruling Labour party in 2006 but was abandoned after fierce opposition from Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.
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