The government’s Communications Data Bill will effectively create a giant centralised database of everyone in the UK’s web activities, MPs and peers have heard.
The bill would force telecoms companies to store details of internet use and communications for a year and also to implement a query interface so that the data can be used as if it were part of a massive centralised database.
Home Secretary Theresa May claimed that the data will not be held on a single government database. But security experts told the cross-party committee examining the bill it would operate in a similar way.
The communications bill was published in draft form earlier this year and is being examined in detail by a committee of MPs and peers before it begins its passage into law.
Civil liberties groups giving evidence to the committee suggested the query system could be used to mount fishing expeditions rather than targeted surveillance – something the Home Office has explicitly claimed will not happen.
Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said:
The filtering provisions are so broadly worded and so poorly drafted that it could allow mining of all the data collected, without any requirement for personal information, which is the very definition of a fishing trip.
Internet freedom campaigner Jim Killock, of the Open Rights Group, said officials would be able to build up a complex map of individuals’ communications by examining records of their mobile phone, their normal phone, their work email, their Facebook account and so on.
The campaigners called on the committee to recommend scrapping the data communications bill, rather than making suggestions to improve it as they have been tasked to do by the government. ‘Lack of trust’
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