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Draft Investigatory Powers bill says ISPs have to keep track of internet activity

A new draft bill regarding fighting crime and terror has been introduced, and according to the BBC, the document forces internet service providers (ISPs) to keep a record of the internet activity of everyone in Britain for a year.

Under the new plan, police and intelligence officers will be able to access suspects' "internet connection records." Translated into common language, that basically means that ISPs would have to keep track of which websites someone visits and the apps they connect to through computers, smartphones, tablets and other devices.

Law enforcement agencies would be able to access these records when investigating cases, be it on the case of terrorism, missing people, or pretty much anything else.

At the same time, a couple of safeguard measures will be introduced to prevent abuses as well, including allowing judges to block spying operations. A new Investigatory Powers Commission will be formed, comprising of judges which will have to approve any request to intercept someone’s online behaviour.

Another interesting thing about the draft bill is that it includes proposals on how the state can hack devices and run operations to sweep up large amounts of data, basically legalising previously secret GCHQ activities which were unveiled by Edward Snowden.

According to the BBC report, the draft bill includes:

  • 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

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.