The Communications Data Bill, different versions of which successive governments have sought to ram through Parliament for almost a decade now, is set to be reintroduced within weeks.
Revived and renamed, the Bill will provide government agencies with a “dizzying” array of new surveillance and hacking powers.
These are expected to include powers for Britain’s spy agencies to be able to take remote control of a smartphone and to access every area of the device, including documents, photos, text messages and emails. It will also legally empower them to be able to install eavesdropping software – similar to the technology sold by Hacking Team and Gamma International to third-world dictatorships – onto people’s smartphones and computers.
“Earlier this year, a major report recommended that the UK should completely overhaul the law that regulates the powers that spies have to intercept people’s communications. The new legislation will partly respond to those problems with the current regulation – but will also introduce huge new powers allowing [government agencies] to spy on targets with little restriction,” reports The Independent.
It follows the publication of the government’s “Counter-Extremism Strategy” earlier this week, which home secretary Theresa May claimed would “systematically confront and challenge extremist ideology” and target people who “spread hate”.
Among the measure were demands that internet service providers “do more” to “remove extremist material” and identify the people responsible for it – indicating that ISPs would not only be required to block access to material considered “extremist”, but to actively spy on users seeking out such material, too.
The move by Prime Minister David Cameron to try, once again, to give the UK’s security services wide-ranging powers to hack people’s smartphones and computers, and to eavesdrop at will comes at the same time that the US is introducing new laws to limit spies’ powers surveillance and hacking powers.
Cameron sought to introduce a similarly far-reaching series of powers in the previous Parliament, but was thwarted by his Liberal Democrat coalition partners.
In response, Cameron introduced and forced through Parliament the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (Dripa), which was struck down in court following a judicial review brought by David Davis MP and Tom Watson MP.