The Queen’s speech in Parliament has confirmed the security services will get even more surveillance powers to tackle the online communications of terrorists, paedophiles and other serious criminals.

As expected, the new Investigatory Powers Bill will include not only the previously blocked snooper’s charter, which allows the tracking of people’s web and social media use, but it also includes measures that will strengthen the ability of the security service for the bulk interception (via search warrants) of the content of communications

Addressing Gaps?

The fact that the Investigatory Powers Bill includes far more wide-ranging powers than expected will dismay many privacy campaigners who for years have battled the snooper’s charter. It has led some to label the new bill a “turbo-charged snoopers’ charter”.

The Liberal Democrats and Nick Clegg led the fight against these additional surveillance powers whilst they were part of the previous Coalition government. But the Conservative majority in the Houses of Parliament now means that Prime Minister David Cameron has been freed from the restraining actions of the Liberal Democrats.

The Queen said the new bill would “modernise the law on communications data”, while the government said the new legislation would “provide police and intelligence agencies with the tools” to keep people safe.

Full details of the bill are expected to be revealed in the coming days. But essentially the government claimed the new bill would give the police and security service new surveillance powers (to keep you and your family safe”. It will “address ongoing capability gaps that are severely degrading the ability of law enforcement and intelligence agencies ability to combat terrorism and other serious crime.”

It will also maintain the current abilities of authorities to “target” online communications of “terrorists, paedophiles and other serious criminals”. It will also modernise outdated laws to ensure it is “fit for purpose”, and finally ensure there is “appropriate oversight” and safeguards for how the powers are used.

Privacy Worries

The new bill is likely to be very controversial indeed. Not will it will upset privacy campaigners, but it is highly likely that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as well as mobile operators, will have to create new systems to store data about their customer’s online and communication behaviours.

The Open Rights Group has long campaigned against these surveillance powers, an issue that became headline news when the extent of the NSA data gathering programs was first revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden in June 2013.

“This is the fifth time a Government has tried to bring in the Snoopers’ Charter,” it said. “The Home Office wants to give the police and intelligence services even more powers to look at what we do and who we talk to.”

“Do we really want to live in a country where the police tries to access all of our texts and WhatsApp messages to our loved ones, the emails from our friends, the Facebook messages we’ve sent and the Snapchat photos our friends send us?” it said.

And it warned that the government may use this new bill to tackle encryption technology, an issue that David Cameron has been seeking to address for some time now.

“We think the police and intelligence services should target people suspected of crimes instead of collecting everyone’s data, all of the time,” said the group.

It should be noted that the British move mirrors that of the United States and France, where authorities have sought to increase state surveillance and facilitate the collection of communications metadata in recent months.

That said, the US Court of Appeals recently ruled the NSA’s mass collection of phone records was illegal.

Are you a pedant on privacy? Try our quiz!

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

Recent Posts

Wisk Plans Autonomous Air Taxi Flights By Decade’s End

Boeing-owned start-up Wisk plans autonomous eVTOL flights by end of decade as companies crowd into…

9 hours ago

US Cracks Down On Tech Shipments To Russia

Shipments of high-end chips and other electronics to Russia via China and Hong Kong said…

9 hours ago

Double-Digit Growth For Google Expected Amidst AI Push

Google expected to see double-digit revenue and profit growth for second quarter amidst AI cloud…

10 hours ago

Xiaomi Entered EV Market ‘Due To US Sanctions’

Xiaomi chief executive says he decided to begin making electric vehicles after company was placed…

10 hours ago

Nvidia Said To Develop ‘Blackwell’ AI Chip For China

Nvidia said to be developing version of next-gen 'Blackwell' AI chip for China market as…

11 hours ago

NHS Delays Continue After Windows Outage

Patients told to expect delays into this week as disruption to EMIS booking system leads…

1 day ago