UK government to publish ‘Big Brother’ Investigatory Powers Bill

Home Secretary Theresa May

Internet service providers (ISPs) will be required to store details of customers’ online activity for up to a year under a new law proposed by the UK government.

The draft Investigatory Powers Bill, due to be published later today, will reportedly include provisions requiring Internet and phone companies to store records for up to a year, as well as creating a new offence for misuse of that data.

Home Secretary Theresa May said the government will not be empowering intelligence agencies to “go through people’s browsing history”.

Data will be “strictly limited and targeted”, consisting of Internet Connection Records (ICRs) that have been compared to the online equivalent of a phone bill.

These records will show what websites individuals have visited, but not which pages they accessed or what data they submitted to that website.

Ms May is expected to announce that a senior judge would be appointed as an “Investigatory Powers Commissioner”, who would approve warrants for access to sensitive data and hold law enforcement agencies to account.

The proposed legislation has been widely compared to the Communications Data Bill introduced in the 2012-13 legislative session, which was eventually dropped due to Liberal Democrat opposition.

However, the government says the new bill contains “strengthened safeguards”, including preventing local authorities from accessing data collected under the proposed law.

UK government sources said it would be “unlawful for councils to access communications data for trivial matters” under provisions included in the draft bill.

The new offence of “knowingly or recklessly obtaining communications data from a telecommunications operator without lawful authority” would also carry a prison sentence of up to two years.

The draft bill is expected to go to a final vote next year.

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