New laws proposed in the Investigatory Powers Bill will allow spies and police to have greater power to monitor the public’s phone and internet use.

Civil liberties campaigners are against the new powers, as they believe that they would infringe the privacy rights of UK citizens. A similar bill, known as the ‘snooper’s charter’ was almost introduced in 2012 by Home Secretary Theresa May, but it was roundly blocked by the Liberal Democrats.

Filling gaps in intelligence gathering

Downing Street claims that the new bill will provide authorities with additional tools to keep the public safe. It will also allow them access to communications data which they say is putting lives at risk, whilst also enabling gaps in intelligence gathering to be filled. The bill will focus on monitoring the conversations between paedophiles, terrorists and other serious criminals.

Jim Killock, executive director of The Open Rights Group, stated that not only is data collection on this scale costly, it is possible the bill will result in an “attack” on encryption.

“The government is signalling that it wants to press ahead with increased powers of data collection and retention for the police and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), spying on everyone, whether suspected of a crime or not,” he noted. “This is the return of the ‘snooper’s charter’, even as the ability to collect and retain data gets less and less workable.”

[themecolor]Recording our tweets, emails and online gaming[/themecolor]

Under the new bill, internet service providers and mobile operators could be asked to collect data on what people tweet, who they call, every email they send and even what games they play. However, the police say that the law needs to keep up with advances in technology and that it has long required the ability to better track suspects online.

The Investigatory Powers Bill was included in the recent Queen’s Speech, where 26 other laws were also proposed. Of course, increasing the monitoring powers of the state will always be a contentious issue and this bill still has a long way to go before it becomes law.

For UK businesses, there are clear parallels with the monitoring of internet abuse by staff in the workplace, although happily there are several tried, tested and legal solutions on hand to counter this particular threat.