House of Lords has vital opportunity to remove counter-productive ‘internet connection records’ from the Snoopers’ Charter

(On) Wednesday 13 July 2016) Parliament has a vital opportunity to remove the power to collect and store the nation’s ‘internet connection records’ (ICRs) in the Investigatory Powers Bill.

On Wednesday the House of Lords will consider the proposed power for the Home Secretary to require telecommunications operators to generate and retain ICRs for up to 12 months. These records will then be accessible to a multitude of public authorities.

Internet connection records will comprise of every internet connection made – including every website visited, any communication software used, each system update downloaded, every mobile phone app used – by each and every person in the United Kingdom.

These records will cover any device capable of accessing the internet, including – but not limited to – PCs, tablets, mobile phones, games consoles, baby monitors, digital cameras and e-book readers.

A wide range of public authorities including HMRC, the Department for Work and Pensions, NHS trusts, the Gambling Commission and the Food Standards Agency will be able to self-authorise their own access to the logs created – an unprecedented intrusion into the online activities of the entire population.

Should the Bill be passed in its current form, the UK will be the only European democracy and the first of the Five Eye nations to have such intrusive powers on the statute book. This would follow the ISC’s revelation that the security agencies’ can already access ICRs by other means, and the seven-year failure of the same provision in Danish law which was subsequently repealed.

On Wednesday Peers will debate amendments which would both remove the requirement for internet service providers to retain ICRs and prohibit their acquisition by public authorities.

Silkie Carlo, Policy Officer for Liberty, said: “Easily evaded by anyone with a basic understanding of anonymity tools, including criminals, ICRs will create an unprecedented, invasive database of almost exclusively innocent people.

“Costing the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds, the creation of ICRs is a regime proven to fail that produces inaccurate, misleading and potentially falsely incriminating information. And with the likes of TalkTalk forced to store millions of citizens’ web histories, billing data and passwords, it would create a goldmine for criminal hackers.

“Building detailed pictures of our private lives to be made available to thousands of public officials would have a chilling effect on our online lives – with no public benefit. Rejected by democratic countries the world over, ICR retention would make the UK a world-leader in surveillance of its own people. We urge Parliament to put an end to these draconian, counter-productive plans.”