The internet activity of everyone in Britain will have to be stored for a year by service providers, under new surveillance law plans.
Police and intelligence officers will be able to see the names of sites people have visited without a warrant, Home Secretary Theresa May said.
But there would be new safeguards over MI5, MI6 and the police spying on the full content of people’s web use.
Mrs May told MPs the proposed powers were needed to fight crime and terror.
The wide-ranging draft Investigatory Powers 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.
The draft bill’s measures include:
- Giving a panel of judges the power to block spying operations authorised by the home secretary
- A new criminal offence of “knowingly or recklessly obtaining communications data from a telecommunications operator without lawful authority”, carrying a prison sentence of up to two years
- Local councils to retain some investigatory powers, such as surveillance of benefit cheats, but they will not be able to access online data stored by internet firms
- The Wilson doctrine – preventing surveillance of Parliamentarians’ communications – to be written into law
- Police will not be able to access journalistic sources without the authorisation of a judge
- A legal duty on British companies to help law enforcement agencies hack devices to acquire information if it is reasonably practical to do so
- Former Appeal Court judge Sir Stanley Burnton is appointed as the new interception of communications commissioner
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 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”.
But Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil rights campaign Liberty, said: “After all the talk of climbdowns and safeguards, this long-awaited Bill constitutes a breath-taking attack on the internet security of every man, woman and child in our country.