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Surveillance bill includes internet records storage

Internet firms will have to store data on what people access online for a year, under new surveillance law plans.
At the same time, ministers are proposing senior judges will have unprecedented powers to block operations to intercept communications.
The draft Investigatory Powers Bill aims to completely overhaul how police and security agencies use covert powers to detect and stop crime.
Home Secretary Theresa May is now unveiling the plans in the Commons.
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The large and complex bill also contains proposals covering how the state can hack devices and run operations to sweep up large amounts of data as it flows through the internet, enshrining in law the previously covert activities of GCHQ, as uncovered by whistleblower Edward Snowden.


Mrs May told MPs the draft bill was a "significant departure" from previous plans, dubbed the "snooper's charter" by critics, which were blocked by the Lib Dems, and it was needed to help fight serious crime and terrorism.
It will "provide some of the strongest protections and safeguards anywhere in the democratic world and an approach that sets new standards for openness, transparency and oversight," the home secretary told MPs.
The legislation brings together a variety of existing powers that cover how the home secretary and other ministers can authorise operations to intercept communications - such as telephone taps and other surveillance.

'Itemised phone bill'

But it also proposes to order communications companies, such as broadband firms, to hold basic details of the services that someone has accessed online - something that has been repeatedly proposed but never enacted.
This duty would include forcing firms to hold a schedule of which websites someone visits and the apps they connect to through computers, smartphones, tablets and other devices.
Police and other agencies would be then able to access these records in pursuit of criminals - but also seek to retrieve data in a wider range of inquiries, such as missing people.
Mrs May stressed that the authorities would not be able to access to everyone's browsing history, just basic data, which was the "modern equivalent of an itemised phone bill".
Such data would consist of a basic domain address, and not a full browsing history of pages within that site or search terms entered.
For example, police could see that someone visited www.bbc.co.uk - but not the individual pages they viewed.
Local councils will retain some investigatory powers, such as surveillance of benefit cheats, but they will not be able to access this online data.
Under the proposals, a new team of judges will form a new Investigatory Powers Commission, which the Home Office says will provide world-leading oversight of how police, MI5 and others intercept and gather data.

Critical intelligence

When police or security agencies apply to intercept someone's communications, their plans would have to be first signed off by the home secretary - as is currently the case - but then approved by one of these judges.
In urgent situations, such as when someone's life is in danger or there is a unique opportunity to gather critical intelligence, the home secretary would have the power to approve an interception warrant without immediate judicial approval.
The judges would also be able to refer serious errors to an outside tribunal which could then decide to tell the individual their data has been illegally collected.
The bill also proposes:
  • Making the Wilson doctrine - preventing surveillance of Parliamentarians' communications - law
  • Placing a legal duty on British companies to help law enforcement agencies hack devices to acquire information if it is reasonably practical to do so
The bill does not propose forcing overseas companies to comply with these orders.
Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions, David Cameron said the bill was "one of the most important this House will discuss", adding: "We must help the police and security and intelligence services to keep us safe."
London Mayor Boris Johnson warned that the new powers must not be used as an "instrument of oppression", saying the proposed law was "defensible if and only if it's supervised by a judge".
Labour's shadow home secretary Andy Burnham backed the draft bill, saying it was "neither a snooper's charter nor a plan for mass surveillance".

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