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Clegg counters Cameron’s calls for increased surveillance

Prime Minister David Cameron has called for more government Internet surveillance powers following last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

However, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has claimed he and his party, the Liberal Democrats, will continue to oppose “the snooper’s charter.”

In July, the UK government attempted to rush “emergency” legislation through Parliament many argued would impede on citizens’ privacy – however, Whitehall argued it was simply trying to retain powers it already held.

Now, in the wake of the Paris shootings, the Prime Minister is revisiting similar ideas, claiming that better surveillance powers can help combat terrorist threats.

Cameron has suggested that technology firms must give government access to private communications data not only to stop terrorism, but also fight other crimes.

“The attacks in Paris once again demonstrated the scale of the terrorist threat that we face and the need to have robust powers through our intelligence and security agencies and Policing in order to keep our people safe,” the Prime Minister claimed.

“The powers that I believe we need, whether on communications data or on the content of communications, I am very comfortable that those are absolutely right for a modern, liberal democracy.

“The next government will have to legislate again in 2016. If I’m Prime Minister I will make sure it is a comprehensive piece of legislation that makes sure we do not allow terrorists safe space to communicate with each other,” he added.

“A Line Must Be Drawn”

According to Clegg though, such measure would “cross a line.”

“Privacy is a qualified right,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“If someone wants to do us harm, we should be able to break their privacy and go after their communications, but the snooper’s charter was not about intercepting communications.

“It was about storing a record of all your social media activity, of every website you have visited of every single individual in this country, of people who would never dream of doing anyone else harm, would never dream of becoming a terrorist or having anything to do with extremist ideologies,” he added.

“The question we need to ask ourselves, in a free, open society as we defend our values against the abhorrent attacks we saw in Paris, is where do you draw the line,” the Deputy PM asked.

Current Legislation

The Draft Communications Data Bill 2012, which would have extended the range of data communications companies have to store for 12 months, was blocked by the Lib Dems.

However, the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014-15 and Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill 2014-15 require communications companies to log records, but not content, of calls, texts and Internet use and allow Internet Protocol (IP) address matching respectively.

The Lib Dems support the logging of records, but not the logging of content of calls, texts and Internet use.