The UK government has revealed how it wants to spy on citizens

The UK government has published a draft document outlining how it wants to spy on digital communications.

The 299-page Investigatory Powers Bill was unveiled by Home Office Minister Theresa May at the Houses of Parliament in London today.

The proposed new legislation concerns, among other things, the interception of people’s electronic communications, or, as the government puts it, “the ability of intelligence agencies and law enforcement to target online communications of terrorists, paedophiles and other serious criminals.”

Speaking to the House of Commons, May said that the government will not ban end-to-end encryption, as Business Insider reported earlier today.

May was keen to stress that this is not a return to the “snooper’s charter” which was blocked by the coalition government in 2012.

The bill also states that internet firms should store details of every website visited by UK citizens in the past year. Police and intelligence agencies will have to get permission to see the content and councils will be banned from trawling the records.

The bill gives judges the power to block spying operations authorised by the home secretary.

Privacy campaigners see the new requirement for everyone’s internet records to be stored as a major extension of surveillance powers.

At this stage, the bill, largely seen as an attempt to group together new government surveillance rules under a single umbrella, is nothing more than a series of proposals. However, these proposals could be turned into new legislation when the government votes on them next year.

Encryption

The Telegraph’s Tom Whitehead suggested that the government would seek a ban on unbreakable encryption — the term given when only the sender and recipient of messages can decipher them — but the bill reveals that encryption laws will not be changed.

“No-one can argue with the fact that if the police were able to enter and search any house, at any time, they would catch more criminals,” said Greg Aligiannis, Senior Security Director at message encryption provider Echoworx. “But should they? Does the value of the information stood to be gained outweigh that of personal privacy. The government is proposing to watch citizens as if they were criminals.”

Apple iMessageAppleApple offers full end-to-end encryption on its devices.

The government tried to push a similar bill, the Communications Data Bill, otherwise known as the snooper’s charter, through parliament in 2012 but it was blocked by the Liberal Democrats.

At the time, members of parliament [MPs] and peers dismissed the draft bill because it paid “insufficient attention to the duty to respect the right to privacy” and went “much further than it need or should for the purpose of providing necessary and justifiable official access to communications data”.

UK attitudes to spying

Polling organisation YouGov has been surveying the UK for years about attitudes to surveillance, and the answer always comes back the same: The public supports surveillance. In fact, British people want more of it, not less.

In January this year, YouGov published the results of a survey on the UK’s perception of surveillance. It found that 53% of people supported increased surveillance.

The same survey found that 63% of people trusted the intelligence services to do the right thing (29% of people did not trust them.)

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