Home Office Set To Introduce New Data Surveillance Plan

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Measures to be introduced this week will require ISPs to retain IP address data and make it available to police upon request

ISPs are to be required to retain IP address data for 12 months and to make the data available to police upon request, under proposals set to come before MPs on Wednesday.

Home Secretary Theresa May said the measures were a step in the direction of improved national security, but added that objections by Liberal Democrats had prevented the introduction of a fully effective law.

theresa-mayStep towards snooper’s charter?

“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,” she told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

To “fully identify” those breaking the law, police would need access to information such as users’ online conversations, social media activity, calls and texts, all of which were included in the scrapped Communications Data Bill, May said. That bill was thrown out last year due to opposition by Liberal Democrats, who labelled it a “snooper’s charter”.

The more limited measures to be included in amendments to the Terrorism Act of 2000 are intended to allow police to link IP addresses with particular devices and users.

IP addresses are generally shared between different devices, with a different number being assigned by an ISP each time a device is used. The new measures would require ISPs to store records of which devices used which IP addresses at a given time, allowing specific computers and mobile devices to be identified.

The Liberal Democrats applauded the move, saying the party had repeatedly asked the Home Office to produce such a proposal.

‘Not sensible’

“This is exactly the kind of thing we need to take action on, rather than proposing an unnecessary, unworkable and disproportionate snooper’s charter,” a party spokesperson stated, adding that “there is absolutely no chance of that illiberal bill coming back under the coalition government. It’s dead and buried.”

Conservative MP and civil liberties campaigner David Davis said that the proposal is in itself “sensible”, but said the government clearly “sees it as a route back into the whole snooper’s charter”.

Likewise, the campaign group Liberty told the BBC it has nothing against “targeted investigation”, but that the government had indicated its real aim was “blanket surveillance of the entire population”.

However, the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) said the system would be costly for the industry and was unlikely to prove effective against those who know how to conceal their online activities.

“It’s not a sensible thing to have decided to do without consulting us first,” ISPA chairman James Massey told the BBC.

The Home Office said the proposal targets organised criminals, cyber-bullies, hackers, terror suspects, child abuse offenders, and vulnerable people using social media to discuss taking their own lives.

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