Theresa May, the Home Secretary, this week will be outlining a law forcing firms to hand details to police identifying who was using a computer or mobile phone at a given time. The Home Office says that the measure as part of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill will improve national security helping police and security services to pinpoint:
- Organised criminals
- Cyber-bullies and hackers
- Terror suspects and child sex offenders communicating over the internet
- Vulnerable people such as children using social media to discuss taking their own life
The proposals would assist police to locate suspects via a computer or mobile device’s individual Internet Protocol (IP) address. Currently internet service providers do not need to hold data showing which IP address was allocated to a device at a given time making it not always possible for police and security services to match individuals to internet use. The new law, however, would require Internet Service Providers to record people’s internet activity, including social media use, online browsing and online gaming for 12 months.
Mrs May said “This is a step but it doesn’t go all the way to ensuring that we can identify all the people we will need to.” To “ fully identify” everyone she said that police would need power to access communication data as previously proposed in the Communication Data Bill , labelled by critics as the snooper’s charter– an attempt to bring in wide- ranging web monitoring powers.
It seems to be accepted across parties that this specific technical change is welcomed as sensible. However if the Home Secretary sees this recommendation as a route back into the whole snooper’s charter she will find the way rocky and perhaps impassable.
Met Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan –Howe stated that he believed the proposals to be a step in the right direction but added “My job is to help keep people safe. To get that balance between security and privacy is Parliament’s job.”
A spokesman for the campaign group Liberty said “There’s no problem with the targeted investigation of terrorist suspects including, where it requires, linking apparently anonymous communications to a particular person. But every government proposal of the last so many years has been about blanket surveillance of the entire population…So forgive us if we look for the devil in the detail of this new bill.”