Friday, June 15, 2012
New Powers To 'Snoop' On Emails And Calls
The Government has announced legislation which will lead to a huge expansion of surveillance powers of communications on the internet and mobile phones.
The Communications and Data Bill will allow the police and security services to keep track of who is calling who on mobile phones, the email addresses of all correspondents, and the personal IDs of people chatting on social networking sites.
The bill has already been attacked by privacy and civil liberty campaigners.
They have noted that its controversial publication comes on the day that much of the media is focussed on David Cameron's appearance at the Leveson Inquiry.
They also say that whistleblowers could be vulnerable to exposure, as a result of the proposed changes.
The new powers are seen by the Government, the police and the security services as essential to keep pace with innovations on the internet.
These have allowed organised criminals and terrorists to evade traditional methods of phone interception and monitoring.
Of the information that could be collected, Home Secretary Theresa May said that a quarter is being missed. She added that the situation is likely to get worse.
Communications Service Providers will have to store communications data, possibly to specially fitted "black boxes" - funded by the taxpayer.
The government said the cost of this would be £1.8bn over 10 years, but would lead to benefits of up to £6.5bn.
Mobile phone operators will also be expected to provide the duration of calls, the time of day they were made and the location of the caller to police.
No warrant would be required for these surveillance operations, which would need to be authorised by a "senior officer", Whitehall sources said.
"There would have to be a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity to trigger this sort of data collection," an official said.
"And there will be no collection of data in real time," the official added. Local authorities will be excluded from collecting data.
A warrant, issued by the Home Secretary, would be needed to access the content of communications.
Oversight of the surveillance is likely to be a major political issue. Britain is already the most snooped upon country in the world by Closed Circuit Televisions (CCTV).