U.K: ‘big brother’ pushing ahead with ‘snoopers charter’, communication providers will be made to store details
Controversial ‘Big Brother’ plans to store details of everyone’s email, Facebook, text and internet use will be passed into law despite a furious backlash from privacy groups.
And proposals for a massive extension of secret courts are to go ahead, although they will be limited to cases involving national security.
Ministers faced a storm of protest last month when it emerged that internet and phone companies would be made to store details of website visits, along with use of Skype and even online games consoles.
But the Home Office yesterday insisted it was forging ahead with the so-called ‘snoopers’ charter’, which the police and security officials insist is vital to protect national security.
They say that terrorists and paedophiles can exploit new technology to hatch plots or swap vile images, and the authorities currently have no coverage of a quarter of all communications data.
Nick Clegg has insisted that he will not approve anything which threatens civil liberties.
Ministers know they face a huge battle to persuade sceptical Coalition MPs to support the plan – originally proposed by Labour, then ditched.
Security officials point out they only want to be able to find out when a call was made and to whom – not what was said. The Bill will normally restrict access to the most sensitive types of data to the police, emergency services and intelligence agencies.
Civil rights campaigners reacted with fury to the inclusion in the Queen’s Speech of legislation to allow more court hearings to be held behind closed doors, saying it represents a dangerous retreat from the long-held British principle that justice must be seen to be done.
Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke is expected to have to retreat further on his original proposals before a Bill is published in full.
Yesterday, the Government said there would be a ‘limited use of closed proceedings, to hear a greater range of evidence in national security cases’.
That narrowed the terms of draft legislation, which had suggested that ministers would be able to order closed court hearings in any civil case they felt threatened the ‘public interest’.
But critics expressed deep concern that rather than moving to a White Paper setting out policy details, the proposals will be pushed through Parliament in this session in a Justice and Security Bill.
The Daily Mail has led criticism of Government plans to allow so-called ‘closed material procedures’, in which cases are conducted behind closed doors, in any civil or inquest hearing.