Every web user in the UK will have their browsing history stored and made available to the police and security services, if home secretary Theresa May’s controversial new laws are approved by parliament.
The so-called Draft Investigatory Powers Bill would see the sites – but not individual pages – that every single UK web user visits over the course of a year stored. These sites will then be accessible by police services without a warrant.
Police bosses have come out in support of the bill, claiming it will allow officers to establish more about a criminal’s network or conspiracy as soon as a lead comes in. Critics, however, have called it “indiscriminate mass surveillance” and a violation of people’s rights.
Technical challenges to achieving this vision
Problems with the bill could come in the form of sophisticated security and encryption tools used by big technology companies. For example, WhatsApp would be required, under the new laws, to keep all communication between its users on record for 12 months.
The messaging service, however, uses end-to-end encryption, which means messages are coded in such a way that, technically, even WhatsApp itself wouldn’t be able to decipher the text.
Other encryption tools are used to keep personal data safe and secure. By removing these at the government’s request, companies could be putting themselves in danger of suffering a breach similar to that recently experienced by mobile operator TalkTalk.
Despite these concerns, the government is pressing ahead with the legislation, claiming that adequate protection has been put in place.
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Carlile told sky.com: “It is a significant and formidable bill which will enable the authorities to catch serious and organised criminals and terrorists and to protect the public. I think the protections that are built into it should satisfy any reasonable person.”
The bill will be examined by both Houses of Parliament, before a final version is voted on next year.