Web firms to be forced to reveal terror suspects’ computer trails: Paedophiles also targeted as police get new powers
- Detectives will have the power to force internet companies to hand over details under new laws
- Home Secretary Theresa May said the move would boost national security
- But she said Nick Clegg was still blocking her from taking further steps on the grounds of civil liberties
Detectives investigating suspected terrorists and paedophiles will have the power to force internet companies to hand over details of computer-users under new laws being introduced by Home Secretary Theresa May.
The move is the latest round in a power battle between Mrs May and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg over the so-called ‘snoopers’ charter’, which would greatly increase the power of the police and intelligence services to monitor communications between suspects.
Last night, Mrs May said the move would boost national security, but complained that Mr Clegg was still blocking her from taking further vital steps on the grounds of civil liberties.
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Power battle: Home Secretary Theresa May has clashed with Nick Clegg over the so-called ‘snooper’s charter’
But the Lib Dems hit back, saying there was ‘no chance’ of any ‘illiberal’ measures being allowed on to the statute book.
Under the Home Secretary’s plans, to be included in the Anti-Terrorism and Security Bill, internet service providers will be obliged to help police and MI5 track suspicious individuals by retaining information that helps them match Internet Protocol (IP) addresses to individual users.
IP addresses are numbers that identify each device connected to the internet. If police seize a computer that has been shared between individuals, they will be able to demand the information that will single out the key suspects. It will also allow them to track anyone using websites showing child-abuse images.
But despite Mrs May’s lobbying, police still cannot demand that internet companies tell them which websites were being viewed by suspects.
The move comes just days after Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, Scotland Yard’s head of counter-terrorism, said the ‘massively stretched’ police were forced to rely on old-fashioned methods such as following suspects because the targets were finding it easier to evade electronic monitoring.
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 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.’
Internet giants were asked at a Downing Street summit last month to hand over the personal details of extremists they catch posting offensive material online, such as beheading videos
An aide to Mr Clegg said he supported the move on IP addresses, but continued to oppose plans to allow the security services to access records of every website visited by targets and who they communicate with on social media sites.
The aide also accused Mrs May of previously making ‘deeply misleading’ claims that the Lib Dems had ‘put children’s lives at risk’ by blocking the ‘snoopers’ charter’.
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 we need to take action on, rather than proposing an unnecessary, unworkable and disproportionate snoopers’ charter. There is absolutely no chance of that illiberal Bill coming back under the Coalition Government – it’s dead and buried.’
As The Mail on Sunday disclosed, internet giants were asked at a Downing Street summit last month to hand over the personal details – including IP addresses – of extremists they catch posting offensive material online, such as beheading videos.