May to introduce new laws to improve online national security
Police are to gain powers that will enable them to force internet firms to pass on details linked to IP addresses so that they can identify criminal suspects online with ease.
The bill will oblige internet service providers to retain rather than automatically dispose of information linking IP addresses to individual users. Experts believe this will contribute to the fight against terrorism and threats to the UK’S online security.
The home secretary Theresa May claims this measure will improve national security, and is dismayed by the Liberal Democrats’ apparent attempts to block further steps towards it.
If the new measures are implemented correctly, the Home Office believes they could help police and security services identify organised criminals, cyber-bullies, hackers, terror suspects, child sex offenders communicating over the internet, and vulnerable people such as children using social media to discuss taking their own life.
Though it is important to track down cyber-criminals, internet service providers currently have no real reason to hold the data that shows which IP address is allocated to a device at any given time.
May wants to give police and spy agencies more power to access internet data and believes their inability to do so at present is hindering important investigations.
She announced last Tuesday: “Over a six-month period the National Crime Agency alone estimates that it has had to drop at least 20 cases as a result of missing communications data. Thirteen of these were threat-to-life cases in which a child was assessed to be at risk of imminent harm. The truth about the way the privacy and security debate has been presented is that it creates myths that hide serious and pressing difficulties. The real problem is not that we have built an over-mighty state but that the state is finding it harder to fulfil its most basic duty, which is to protect the public.”
Emma Carr, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “It is perfectly reasonable that powers to provide the police with the ability to match an IP address to the person using that service is investigated. However, if such a power is required, then it should be subject to the widespread consultation and comprehensive scrutiny that has been sorely lacking to date with industry, civil society and the wider public when it comes to introducing new surveillance powers.”