The so-called “snoopers’ charter” is back with new amendments to the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill expected to be tabled today – less than a week after a public outcry forced them out of the Bill.
The amendments were first introduced last week by four peers in the House of Lords friendly to the security establishment. Privacy activists immediately recognised the amendments as, essentially, the twice-rejected Communications Data Bill, proposed legislation to require internet companies to monitor and preserve records of everyone’s internet browsing and email habits.
The proposed amendments were tabled at a stage in Parliament that would have minimised the opportunities for debate over the amendments, but were withdrawn when more independent-minded peers threatened to derail the entire Bill. However, the withdrawal of the amendments hasn’t stopped the four peers from trying to force the measures through again.
The amendments were pushed by a cross-party group comprising of former Conservative defence secretary Lord King, former Metropolitan Police commissioner Lord Blair, Liberal Democrat Lord Carlile – whose own party leader Nick Clegg officially opposes the Communications Data Bill – and former admiral and Labour peer Lord West, also a former minister for security and counter-terrorism.
The subsequent outcry led to the withdrawal of the amendments and a promise to re-write the Bill. The new draft, according to Lord Blencathra, whose joint committee scrutinised the Bill, would address concerns raised and would not be considered a “snooper’s charter”.
The new amendments, which are almost identical to the withdrawn amendments, will be introduced today during the Bill’s report stage. The amendments will not only require internet service providers to record all their users internet usage and to retain those records for at least a year – with the security services and police able to peruse that information at will – but will also mandate social media websites, such as Facebook and Skype, to likewise retain user data.
It follows the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act, which was rushed through Parliament last year. This was intended to make up for the Court of Justice of the European Union decision that invalidated many parts of the EU Data Retention Directive.