The UK government is seeking to keep tabs on cyber crime and potential security threats by matching web use with specific IP addresses, but the measure is likely to fail as criminals and terrorists can easily thwart this method of surveillance.
The new measures to be detailed by home secretary Theresa May are expected to be part of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, and will require internet service providers (ISPs) to keep data that is designed to identify individual subscribers and their web use.
But while the measures have been given a cautious welcome by some civil rights campaigners, others have said that it will effectively be a step back towards the so-called snoopers' charter that the government previously tried to pass, which would have introduced wide-ranging monitoring powers.
"Back in April, the Court of Justice of the EU ruled that the blanket retention of our data interfered with our right to privacy and should therefore be targeted where there are specific threats," said Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group.
"In contradiction of this judgement, the UK government has instead chosen not only to continue to retain our data but to increase the information it collects about us, through DRIPA [Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014] and these latest proposals.
"We have a choice between blanket, pervasive and excessively intrusive surveillance that breaches everyone's right to privacy, and targeted data retention that protects our fundamental rights."
Meanwhile, others have pointed out that linking web activity to a specific IP address is futile, as this can easily be circumvented with software such as Tor or a VPN service that will conceal the web sites being accessed.
"It is likely to do more harm than good, because criminals and terrorists will, and often do, use circumventive methods such as VPNs and Tor," said Benjamin Ali, senior investigator at dark web intelligence specialist Centient.
"We have seen this happen with criminal activities migrating from the open web to the darknet and Tor marketplaces, so this is also likely to prove a popular alternative for regular users."
Tor encrypts web traffic and redirects it through a network of relays run by volunteers around the globe to hide the ultimate destination of the packets.
Likewise, a VPN service encrypts web traffic and forwards it to the VPN operator, from where it travels onward to the target site.
Ali said that many ordinary people will see the new regulations as a breach of their privacy, which could lead to a wider use of tools to hide web activity.
Tony Larks, director of communications and research at security firm ThreatMetrix, agreed.
"It will do very little to help catch the real fraudsters. It will flag those people using their home internet connection for malicious purposes but that aren't aware," he added.
"This is essentially a group of consumers doing naughty things online, like downloading content they shouldn't have access to, rather than the hardcore criminals who will typically hide their device, ID and location."
In other words, trying to match people to specific IP addresses is unlikely to catch any terrorists or criminals, but could be used to build up a clearer picture of the browsing habits of ordinary citizens.
Meanwhile, the Internet Services Providers' Association (ISPA), the trade body representing ISPs, has also criticised the government for not consulting enough with its members before introducing legislation.
"ISPA is disappointed that the Home Office has not consulted with industry on proposals for IP matching, but we will work with our members to scrutinise and inform the legislation when it is published," the statement reads.
"IP addresses can generally only be used to identify a subscriber and not an individual.
"As we argued in our submission to the Anderson Review on future communications data laws, the Home Office needs to do more to consult with industry on its proposals. Once again there has been a distinct lack of engagement with industry."
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