The United Kingdom unveiled on Wednesday some hardline cyber-snooping legislation which will make it mandatory for Internet companies to store users’ web history for at least one year. The bill is aimed at boosting the country’s anti-terrorism capabilities.
New surveillance powers will be given to security services and law enforcement. And, under the provisions of the draft Investigatory Powers Bill that was announced by UK home secretary Theresa May earlier this spring, these new powers will allow officials to access and search users’ personal Internet history.
Parliament must now pass the bill in order for it to become law.
May told the House of Commons that, “The task of law enforcement and security and intelligence agencies has become vastly more demanding in this digital age. It is right that those protecting us have the powers they need to do so but it is the role of government and Parliament to ensure there are limits to those powers.”
The bill proposes to order and require communications firms, such as broadband companies, to hold and store basic details of the services that individuals have accessed online.
The details proposed to be stored include schedules of websites that people visit and the identity and frequency people visit apps accessed through tablets and smartphones.
Then, in the pursuit of criminals as well as to seek data in a number of inquiries – such as missing persons cases – agencies and police would have the ability to access these records.
Local councils will retain some semblance of investigatory powers in order to conduct surveillance on individuals scamming the government for benefits. However, the councils will not have the ability to access the stored online data.
May described the importance of the proposed legislation by stating that, “There should be no area of cyberspace which is a haven for those who seek to harm us to plot, poison minds and peddle hatred under the radar.”
May also added that, “But I am also clear that the exercise and scope of investigatory powers should be clearly set out and subject to stringent safeguards and robust oversight, including ‘double-lock’ authorization for the most intrusive capabilities.”
May said the bill will give the United Kingdom “world-leading oversight” to govern and oversee an “investigatory powers regime” which is more transparent than any other country in the world.
Prime Minister David Cameron described the bill as “one of the most important this House will discuss. We must help the police and security and intelligence services to keep us safe.”
The United States has similar proposed legislation pending and the majority of Internet service companies adamantly oppose the bill. Opponents of the legislation claim that by providing backdoor entry into their systems will only allow cyber hacking to flourish.