It would order communications companies, such as broadband firms, to hold basic details of the services that someone has accessed online – something that has been repeatedly proposed but never enacted.
This duty would include forcing firms to hold a schedule of which websites someone visits and the apps they connect to through computers, smartphones, tablets and other devices. Police and other agencies would be then able to access these records in pursuit of criminals – but also seek to retrieve data in a wider range of inquiries, such as missing people.
Mrs May stressed that the authorities would not be able to access everyone’s browsing history, just basic data, which was the “modern equivalent of an itemised phone bill”.
But investigating officers will not have to obtain a warrant, just get their request signed off by a senior officer, just as they do now – some 517,000 such requests were granted last year.
The theoretical benefits behind a bill like this should be enhanced protections for web users. That is, instead of the GCHQ snooping secretly and indiscriminately without a warrant, ISPs would hold the data and only release it upon legal command.
However, there’s no indication that this would compel the GCHQ to stop their intrusive and rights-violating behaviour, nor would it require a warrant to be obtained for basic access to the data that ISPs retain. Moreover, a choice exclusively between ISPs retaining our browsing history and intelligence agencies doing the same isn’t one we should accept. How about nobody retains browsing history? At least, until a court order compels an ISP to monitor a specific customer for a legitimate reason.
Another component of this bill:
The Wilson doctrine – preventing surveillance of Parliamentarians’ communications – to be written into law
So the only way to have a reasonable expectation of privacy is to be elected to Parliament? I think this should be reversed: if this bill becomes law, Parliamentarians’ browser history should be publicly posted in real time.