The UK's powers of mass surveillance will be dramatically expanded if a draft bill now under consideration becomes law. The bill demands that Internet Service Providers should store records of every website visited by users in UK for up to a year. Online monitoring at this level has been banned in the US, Canada, and every other European nation, and has been previously rejected in the UK. Supporters of the legislation say it is a compromise from the earlier bill, but privacy campaigners warn it is in fact more intrusive.
Records of citizens' internet activity would only include the basic URL of websites they visit and not any specific pages. While searches made on sites would not be recorded, the time of visits, as well as the IP addresses of other computers which the individual contacted, would be stored. While police would need authorization from a panel of judges before accessing an individual's web history, the search would also include the person’s browsing data from smartphones and other mobile devices.
Ever since the whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the scale of digital surveillance by US and British security agencies, the authorities have been attempting to give legal credence to their invasion of individual’s privacy. Similar legislation has already been rejected in Europe and in Britain itself with the European Court of Justice ruling that such bulk retention of data interfered with fundamental human rights.
As well as bulk data collection, the draft bill also formalizes when and how British spies can hack and bug computers and phones. The interception of an individual's communications will have to be approved by the home secretary and by a judge, although in situations where someone's life is in danger or there is a perceived critical need to gather intelligence, the warrant can be approved without judicial oversight.