The government has officially unveiled plans to monitor social network and email traffic in real time in the Queen’s Speech.
The expected laws will enable security services to monitor everything except the actual content of any electronic communication without applying to the courts for permission.
Alongside announcing greater oversight of the intelligence agencies, the Queen’s Speech also promised ‘strict safeguards’ on the new laws.
The Queen said: “My government intends to bring forward measures to maintain the ability of the law enforcement and intelligence agencies to access vital communications data under strict safeguards to protect the public, subject to scrutiny of draft clauses.”
The Communications Capabilities Development Programme would extend plans for live surveillance of electronic communication which were shelved by the previous government following widespread opposition.
While not being automatically privy to the content of communications, the police and intelligence agencies would be able to monitor logs and details of participants in social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, online video game chat, instant messaging service and internet phone service such as Skype.
They would also be able to view your internet history, including domains visited and possibly full internet addresses.
ISPs will be required to log their customers’ activity and hand them over on request, although a warrant will still be required to monitor the content of any communications.
The new laws were due to be part of a general crime and courts bill, but have now been separated into their own bill so the other measures won't be slowed down by the heavy scrutiny expected for increasing online surveillance powers.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has also spoken of a desire to challenge the proposals, which could further divide the Coalition Government.