In an unprecedented step that will see Britain adopt the same kind of surveillance as China and Iran, police and intelligence officers are to be handed powers to monitor people’s messages online. The plans have been described as an “attack on the privacy” of a vast number of Britons by the Independent and have attracted little support from backbench MP’s.
The Home Secretary, Theresa May, announced the governments intention to introduce legislation in next month’s Queen’s Speech which would allow law-enforcement agencies to check on social media, online gaming forums, calls, emails, texts and website traffic. The plans would give officials the right to know “who speaks to whom on demand and in real time”. The Home Office has said that the new law would keep crime-fighting abreast of communications developments and that a warrant would still be required to view the content of messages.
The Government has offered no justification for what is unprecedented intrusion into our lives, nor explained why promises made about civil liberties are being casually junked. The silence from Home Office ministers has been deafening. It is remarkable that they wish to pry into everything we do online but seem intent on avoiding any public discussion.
These plans are an unprecedented attack on privacy online and it is far from clear this will actually improve public safety, while adding significant costs to internet business. No amount of scare-mongering can hide the fact that this policy is being condemned by MPs in all political parties.