Britain may soon allow its intelligence agencies to monitor all phone calls, texts, emails and online activities in the country to help tackle crime and terrorism, the Interior Ministry said on Sunday, Reuters reports.
Internet companies would have to install hardware which would allow the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) to gain real-time access to data. Although GCHQ would not have access to the content of emails, calls, or messages without a warrant, it would be able to trace who an individual or group was in contact with, how often they communicated, and for how long.
“What we do need to make sure is that as technology changes we are able to maintain our current capability in this area,” a government spokesman told the BBC, adding that communications data was used to help solve 95 per cent of serious crime and terrorism cases.
The new legislation is expected to be announced in the legislative agenda-setting speech given by the Queen on May 9. Currently, British agencies can only monitor calls and e-mails of specific individuals who are under investigation after obtaining ministerial approval.
The proposal has drawn strong criticism, both from civil liberties groups and from within the ruling Conservative Party, as an invasion of privacy and personal rights, and it will likely face stiff opposition in parliament.
“What the government hasn’t explained is precisely why they intend to eavesdrop on all of us without even going to a judge for a warrant,” MP David Davis told BBC News. Nick Pickles, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, called the move “an unprecedented step that will see Britain adopt the same kind of surveillance seen in China and Iran”.
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