Police will be able to force ISPs to hand over data on subscribers, if new proposals go ahead.
The Anti-Terrorism and Security Bill is proposing to increase powers available to security services in order to help identify terrorists and paedophiles.
The proposals will see UK service providers forced to store and hand over data relating to IP addresses in order for police to match online activity to specific individuals.
An IP – internet protocol – address is assigned to a device every time it connects to the Internet. In broad terms, an IP address is usually associated with a subscriber’s house and can be used to find out who accessed which sites and when.
Home secretary Theresa May said: “The bill provides the opportunity to resolve the very real problems that exist around IP resolution and is a step in the right direction towards bridging the overall communications data capability gap.”
May added that while the proposals were a step in the right direction, she made it clear that the Communications Data Bill – dubbed the Snoopers’ Charter by critics – needed to be revived. The proposed Anti-Terrorism and Security Bill won’t require companies to retain communications data, in other words a record of who spoke to who online and when.
The Liberal Democrats, who stopped the Communications Data Bill on these grounds, are in favour of the new Bill.
A Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: “It is good news that the Home Office has finally got round to producing proposals on this after being repeatedly asked by Nick Clegg. These can now be agreed and acted on in the upcoming Bill.
“This is exactly the kind of thing that we need to take action on, rather than proposing an unnecessary, unworkable and disproportionate Snoopers’ Charter. There is absolutely no chance of that illiberal Bill coming back under the Coalition Government – it’s dead and buried.”
While communications data will not be intercepted under this new Bill, Emma Carr, director of privacy pressure group Big Brother Watch says that the government needs to debate the terms of the Bill properly.
Carr said: “Before setting her sights on reviving the snoopers charter, the Home Secretary should address the fact that one of the biggest challenges facing the police is making use of the huge volume of data that is already available, including data from social media and internet companies. The Snoopers’ Charter would not have addressed this, while diverting billions from investing in skills and training for the police.
“If proposals are to be brought forward then they must be based on a full and frank discussion with industry, be technically workable and not introduce by the back door excessive or unwarranted obligations for data to be collected.”
Carr added that a repeat of DRIP – Data Retention and Investigatory Powers – which was railroaded through Parliament in a matter of days was undesirable.
After the European Court of Justice ruled that blanket data-retention policies of the previous RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) was unlawful on human rights grounds, Parliament voted to temporarily preserve the powers of the act until December 2016, fearing that ISPs might start deleting previously held data that might be relevant to developing cases.
Prime Minister David Cameron recently announced plans to introduce a ‘report terrorism’ button, which would allow subscribers to report to the police any sites or individuals suspected of being involved with terrorists.