The government is to store everybody’s online data for a year, following a review of the state’s electronic surveillance policy.
Home Secretary Theresa May revealed the Communications Data Bill yesterday, updating what is commonly and colloquially referred to as ‘the snooper’s charter’ – the government’s powers to monitor online and telephone activity. The crux of the document was that the government will collate files on peoples’ social networking activity as well as things like online gambling for defence and security purposes.
The bill, 123 pages in length, looks to help the government keep pace with the rapidly developing online world, giving them greater power to monitor potentially dangerous behaviour. The Home Office has stated that the collection of data will cost £1.8bn over the next 10 years but also says it will save up to £6.2bn in that same period through more efficient investigations and greater criminal asset seizures.
The range of data that the government will now capture and store has been widened to include messages and updates on social media sites, online calls, email and Internet gaming.
In her forward to the bill, Theresa May writes: “Communications technologies and services are changing fast. More communications are taking place on the Internet using a wider range of services. As criminals make increasing use of Internet-based communications, we need to ensure that the police and intelligence agencies continue to have the tools they need to do the job we ask of them: investigating crime and terrorism, protecting the vulnerable and bringing criminals to justice.”
She continues: “The purpose of this Bill, therefore, is to protect the public and bring offenders to justice by ensuring that communications data is available to the police and security and intelligence agencies in future as it has been in the past.”
Former Conservative shadow home secretary, David Davis, has attacked the bill which he said mimicks Labour’s similar proposal back in 2009, a proposal that was shot down by the Tory party. He said: “It's not content, but it's incredibly intrusive. If they really want to do things like this – and we all accept they use data to catch criminals – get a warrant. Get a judge to sign a warrant, not the guy at the next desk, not somebody else in the same organisation.”
Ostensibly, security is paramount in this refresh of the government’s e-surveillance powers. Nevertheless, the announcement of the bill will do little to silence cries that big data, and the capturing of it, is leading towards a big brother state, the subject of the latest Big Data Talk.