New legislation could give the Government “on demand” access to your online and phone activities.
Measures to monitor our online activities more closely are thought to be announced in May’s Queen’s Speech.
But what exactly do these Government plans mean for you?
The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) would be able to take a look at the details of your phone calls, texts, emails and browser history – and although a warrant would be necessary to actually access the data, GCHQ could still monitor communication patterns including who you’ve been speaking with and how often.
Designed to give police and the security services extra help when it comes to tackling crime and terrorism, internet firms will be told to install hardware that gives GCHQ additional data access.
A spokesman for the Home Office said: “It is vital that police and security services are able to obtain communications data in certain circumstances to investigate serious crime and terrorism and to protect the public. We need to take action to maintain the continued availability of communications data as technology changes.
“Communications data includes time, duration and dialling numbers of a phone call, or an email address. It does not include the content of any phone call or email and it is not the intention of Government to make changes to the existing legal basis for the interception of communications.”
Despite the Government’s reassurance with regard to the “interception of communications”, naturally there are fears concerning individuals’ privacy.
Campaign bodies are not happy about this proposed change to legislation. Big Brother Watch group’s Nick Pickles said: “This is an absolute attack on privacy online and it is far from clear this will actually improve public safety, while adding significant costs to internet businesses.
“If this was such a serious security issue why has the Home Office not ensured these powers were in place before the Olympics?”
Deputy Prime Minister has today accused MPs and civil rights campaigners of “scaremongering” about the proposed legislation.
Currently, details of web history, email and internet calls have to be kept by internet service providers for 12 months, excluding the content of calls. The new law would extend this requirement to social networking sites like Facebook and internet phone services like Skype.
BBC writes: “It would also reportedly allow intelligence officers to access emails, calls and texts as they happen, without a warrant, rather than retrospectively.
“Mr Clegg told the BBC people should wait to see the full proposals before judging them – and insisted the content of any communications would still only be accessible with a warrant.”
In 2006, the Government tried to introduce similar plans but these were ditched in the face of fierce opposition.
Do you think such a measure is justified or an unnecessary infringement on our online privacy?