by Christopher Williams

Technology Correspondent

09 May 2012

from TheTelegraph Website


The Queen has formally announced plans to greatly increase surveillance of the internet by intelligence agencies and the police, in plans that are being labeled a “snooper’s charter”

by civil liberties groups.



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She said the government would introduce,

“measures to maintain the ability of the law enforcement and intelligence agencies to access vital communications data under strict safeguards to protect the public”.

The plans were “subject to scrutiny of draft clauses”, the Queen added, caveat understood to have been inserted in her speech at the insistence of Libs Dems.


They are concerned by the impact the Communications Data Bill will have on individual freedom and privacy, and feared detailed debate would be steamrollered in Parliament.

The Government did not reveal any technical details about its plans, which are designed to make it easier to discover who has contact whom, when and where, via internet services such as Facebook, Gmail and Skype.


But a document released alongside the Queen’s Speech makes it clear that internet and mobile providers will be expected to intercept and store the relevant data for 12 months.

The Bill will establish,

“an updated framework for the collection and retention of communications data by communication service providers”, the document said.

Opponents complained that the Government had not revealed any new information about its plans.


The Information Commissioner, who the Home Office said will "continue to keep under review" the storage of personal data by communications providers, said he was also awaiting more detail.

"We are waiting to see the detail of what is proposed, including any role envisaged for the Information Commissioner," a spokesman said.

"We shall then have to judge whether the Commissioner's current powers are adequate for the task or whether additional powers and resources will be needed. It remains our position that the case for this proposal still has to be made, and we shall expect to see strong and convincing safeguards and limitations to accompany the Bill.”

Liberty, the human rights group, said it would campaign against the proposals, which it branded a “snooper's charter”.

To store data from “third party” internet services such as websites, broadband providers would have to build major new infrastructure, according to technical experts. It is claimed this would include large data centers and “black box” devices, which would need to be constantly reconfigured to intercept relevant traffic as it flows over their networks.

The technology allows network operators to open up packets of data as they pass to extract information, but can be foiled by encryption, which is increasingly used by major web firms.

The Government emphasized that the system would merely “maintain the ability” that authorities currently have to access basic information about phone calls and web browsing without a warrant.


Opponents argued that people now conduct much of their private lives online and extending the rules to the entire internet represented a significant invasion of privacy.

“Gaining access to your Facebook and Google data without court supervision is not preserving powers, it is a massive extension of the ability of a police officer to see what you are doing,” said Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group, which campaigns on online privacy issues.

"It would be wide open to abuse, endangering whistleblowers and journalists' sources.

"The interception powers open a whole new can of worms. No law has ever previously claimed that people's communications data should be collected by third parties just in case. This data has never been previously collected.”

The measures are expected to provoke fierce debate when the Bill comes before Parliament.


They are opposed by many Liberal Democrats, as well as prominent Tory backbenchers such as David Davis, who recently said they would create a “nation of suspects”.

The Bill has been announced despite a failed attempt by the Labour government to introduce a similar scheme and a pledge in the Coalition Agreement to,

“end the storage of internet and email records without good reason”.

The Home Office said that the new system would offer “a proper avenue of complaint” for those who think they have been unlawfully spied upon.