Proposed UK Legislation Would Greenlight Warrantless Government Spying on Citizens

April 02, 2012
By: Tracey E. Schelmetic

Looks like U.S. citizens aren't the only ones who need to be spooked about creepy, greatly expanded government spying powers at home. Britain's Government Communication Headquarters, or GCHQ, may soon have the right to access telephone calls, SMS messages, e-mails and the online activity of any and all British citizens...without first obtaining a warrant.

The GCHQ would use these new powers courtesy of special hardware installed with Internet service providers (ISPs). This software would allow the government to monitor citizens in real-time, and although the exact content of emails and messages would be off-limits; recipients, time, duration and frequency of conversations, plus a list of websites being visited, would all be logged, Digital Trends is reporting today.

The new powers wouldn't be intended to focus specifically on people suspected of terrorism. Instead, they could be used on anyone. Critics and civil liberties watchdogs are calling it “a way to make it easier for the government to eavesdrop on vast numbers of people.”

The UK government disagrees, saying that the new laws will provide security agencies with the ability to “investigate serious crime and terrorism and to protect the public.”

“It is vital that police and security services are able to obtain communications data in certain circumstances to investigate serious crime and terrorism and to protect the public,” said a Home Office spokesman, who told UK newspaper The Guardian that the plans would be brought forward “as soon as parliamentary time allows.”

The law is expected to be announced during the Queen’s Speech on May 9, but would still need to be approved in Parliament before it become operational, says Digital Trends. In the meantime, both supporters and opponents of the new law are expected to continue weighing in on it.






Edited by Jennifer Russell