The legislation, dubbed the ‘snooper’s charter,’ creates a legal framework authorizing the government to hack into devices, networks and services in bulk.
The law will allow for large databases of personal information on UK citizens to be maintained.
It requires internet, phone and communication app companies to store records for 12 months and allow authorities to access them on demand. That data could be anything from internet search history, calls made or messages sent.
Security agencies will also be able to force companies to decrypt data, effectively placing limits on the use of end-to-end encryption.
For the bill to become law it still requires royal assent, which is essentially a formality. Once this is done, the UK will have one of the most wide-ranging, all-encompassing and privacy-invading mass surveillance programs in the world, according to critics.
Prime Minister Theresa May pushed hard for the bill on the basis of counter-terrorism.
The government argues the incoming law provides intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the powers necessary to fight terrorism and investigate crime
Police and intelligence agencies will be given new powers to track down jihadists who plot terrorist attacks over the internet, under government plans.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, will outline the reforms in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill as she reinforces her commitment to introducing a so-called “snoopers’ charter”, despite opposition from the Liberal Democrats.
The move follows concerns from the security services that technology firms are obstructing the efforts of security services to combat the increasingly sophisticated use of the internet by terrorist groups such as Isil.
Mrs May’s plans focus on reforming the legal rules governing the way internet companies work. In future, technology firms providing internet services to households and businesses will be forced by law to keep detailed records which will help police trace online activities back to individual computers and mobile phones.
All internet users are given an internet protocol (IP) address – a code that enable online material to be sent to the correct destination.
But these IP addresses are usually shared between many different people using the internet in the same location, instead of being allocated to individual devices or customers.
This can make it impossible for police to find out who was using an IP address at a particular time, potentially hampering officers’ ability to identify terror suspects communicating with each other online, according to the Home Office.
At present companies providing internet services are not required to keep records of extra data that can show which individuals have used a particular IP address at a given time, even though this information exists.
Under Mrs May’s plan, this will change, forcing internet companies to keep more detailed records which are capable of showing which individuals used particular IP addresses to communicate online for 12 months.
Ministers believe this will make it possible for police and intelligence agencies to identify individuals who have put illegal material on the internet, including images of child pornography, as well as messages sent between members of a terrorist cell.
However, speaking ahead of the publication of the Bill, the Home Secretary warned that further steps would be needed to keep Britain safe from terrorists, and other criminals.
She promised to continue to campaign for the tighter measures contained in the Draft Communications Data Bill, which was vetoed by Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister.
The Draft Communications Data Bill would have enabled security agencies to examine logs of websites that individuals have visited, a power that Conservatives believe is necessary for national security but is opposed on civil liberty grounds by Lib Dems.
Mrs May said: “Loss of the capabilities on which we have always relied is the great danger we face. The Bill provides the opportunity to resolve the very real problems that exist around IP resolution and is a step in the right direction towards bridging the overall communications data capability gap.
“But I believe that we need to make further changes to the law. It is a matter of national security and we must keep on making the case for the Communications Data Bill until we get the changes we need.”
The Liberal Democrats attempted to claim credit for the latest plans. A Lib Dem spokesman said: “It is good news that the Home Office has finally got round to producing proposals on this after being repeatedly asked by Nick Clegg. These can now be agreed and acted on in the upcoming Bill.
“This is exactly the kind of thing that we need to take action on, rather than proposing an unnecessary, unworkable and disproportionate Snooper’s Charter. There is absolutely no chance of that illiberal Bill coming back under the Coalition Government – it’s dead and buried.
“The issue of IP address matching only resurfaced as a result of deeply misleading claims made in Theresa May’s Conference speech. That is what has prompted the Home Office to stop sitting on their hands.
“This announcement is welcome news but comes after months of Conservative foot dragging. They always bang on about new security powers but have done nothing about IP addresses since we called for it in Spring 2013.”
The UK has just legalized the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes farther than many autocracies. https://twitter.com/mattburgess1/status/798948884433276928 …