David Cameron has promised to extend surveillance powers to cover all communications and content if he wins the next general election.
According to the BBC, the Prime Minister said the murder of Charlie Hebdo staff in Paris by terrorists proved that all forms of online communication must be surveilled.
There should be no “means of communication” which “we cannot read”, he said, caliming that so-called “safe spaces” used by suspected terrorists to communicate online need to be monitored.
This would see security services able to access both communications data and the content of messages, beyond what’s proposed in the Anti-Terrorism and Security Bill.
Conservative efforts to extend surveillance powers, which would have seen police able to get access to a subscriber’s web activity without a warrant, have been frustrated by coalition partners the Liberal Democrats, who effectively shut down the proposed Communications Data Bill in 2013.
Liberal Democrat civil liberties minister Simon Hughes added that he would not support “blanket powers” that would take away the liberties of “innocent civilians”, despite his party’s support for the Anti-Terrorism and Security Bill, seen as a diluted version of the Communications Data Bill.
Following a similar call from head of MI5 Andrew Parker, Pam Cowburn of civil liberties campaigners Open Rights Group said in a post that extending powers would achieve little if nothing.
“We know that the Hebdo offices were already a target, having been firebombed in 2011, over the publication of a caricature of the prophet Mohammed. We know that the suspects Cherif and Said Kouachi were already known to the security services,” Cowburn said.
“We know that France, like the UK has powers to surveill its citizens and, unlike the UK, also has ID cards and an armed police force. But none of this prevented the murder of those 12 people.”
After the European Court of Justice ruled that blanket data-retention policies of the UK Government’s RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) was unlawful, Parliament voted to temporarily preserve the powers of the act until December 2016, via DRIPA (Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act).