We were treated to a number of comical April Fools’ jokes on Sunday, but there was one story that ran over the weekend that had people doubting its authenticity. Plans have been unveiled that would allow intelligence services to monitor email and internet traffic in realtime, as well as phone calls. The new plan could be announced as early as May, and be introduced if it receives Parliamentary approval.
Under the new UK law, ISPs would have to pass all email and internet traffic to the GCHQ (British Government Communications Headquarters). The GCHQ process the same information right now, but only have a limited scope, being able to see when communication were made for example. They require warrants in order to see the actual content of messages and communications.
This new law would allow GCHQ access to more information, though, such as who a person is in contact with, how frequently, and how long for. They would also be able to see what websites a person has visited. A spokesperson for the Home Office said in a statement: “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.”
The director of the director of the Big Brother Watch group, Nick Pickles, believes the new legislation is “an unprecedented step that will see Britain adopt the same kind of surveillance seen in China and Iran.” Even if the move is announced, however, it will need to go through Parliament, with the potential to be shut down in both the House of Commons and House of Lords.