The British government has abandoned a controversial plan to allow the police and security services full access to people’s Internet browsing history.
The Home Office said it removed several contentious proposals from the surveillance bill, as it fears that the plan to snoop on Internet users would be rejected in parliament over civil liberties concerns.
Back in May, British ministers claimed the controversial bill is aimed at maintaining the ability of “intelligence agencies and law enforcement to target online communications of terrorists, pedophiles and other serious criminals.”
The Downing Street also backed the plan and said it would give the authorities “the tools to keep you and your family safe.”
However, rights groups objected to the plan and insisted that it largely violates civil liberties.
Government sources now say they have “dropped completely” main elements of their original 2012 proposals, named the “snooper’s charter.”
They said in a statement that among other things the bill would prevent police and security services from accessing people’s browsing histories, adding, “Any access to internet connection records will be strictly limited and targeted.”
“We’re absolutely clear that key parts of the original plans from 2012 will be dropped from the new bill. We have consulted widely … we are coming forward with a new approach,” said a government source.
No serious change
The development comes as Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil rights group, Liberty, called the self-proclaimed changes to the controversial bill a mere spin.
She added that any interception should take place only after judicial authorization is given and the British government has failed to include it in the plan.
“It’s a traditional Home Office dance first to ask for the most outrageous, even impractical, powers, so that the smallest so-called ‘concessions’ seem more reasonable,” Chakrabarti said.
The “snoopers’ charter” would pave the way for Internet and mobile phone companies to keep records of customers’ online browsing habits, use of social media, emails, text messaging and voice calls.
However, the European Court of Justice ruled against the legislation, warning it would result in human rights violations. The Court outlined a more moderate data retention program at the time that would aid criminal investigations.
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