Prime minister David Cameron has outlined plans to introduce new surveillance laws in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris last week.
Cameron also made comments suggesting that services such as WhatsApp and Snapchat could be banned.
Cameron said that, if he is re-elected this year, he will seek to introduce new powers that focus on communications data, so that security agencies have the access they need to information.
“The attacks in Paris once again demonstrated the scale of the terrorist threat that we face and the need to have robust powers through our intelligence and security agencies and policing,” he said.
“The powers I believe we need [cover] communications data or the content of communications. I am very comfortable those are absolutely right for a modern liberal democracy.”
Cameron said that, while recently introduced legislation, chiefly the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act, has given such powers to the security agencies, this legislation is slated to end in 2016.
“If I am prime minister I will make sure it is a comprehensive piece of legislation that makes sure we do not allow terrorists safe space to communicate with each other,” he said.
Cameron also hinted that services offering built-in encryption pose a serious threat to security.
“Are we going to allow a means of communication which it simply isn’t possible to read?” he said, as reported by The New York Times. “My answer to that question is no, we must not.”
This suggests that apps such as WhatsApp, Snapchat and even Apple's iMessage are under threat as they allow people to communicate with encryption built in.
The comments have already led to a backlash from those who see it as a clear attempt to re-establish the so-called ‘Snoopers’ Charter’ that many believe would encroach on the privacy and liberty of the population as a whole.
Nick Clegg told the Radio 4 Today programme that the plans would mean "scooping up vast amounts of information on millions of people”, and posed major questions about the sort of society people would want to live in.
"The question we need to ask ourselves, in a free, open society as we defend our values against the abhorrent attacks we saw in Paris, is where do you draw the line?" he said.
The Open Rights Group has already spoken out about using the Paris attacks as justification for more monitoring of communications, claiming that such a move would be undemocratic.
"In a democracy, surveillance must be targeted, limited and authorised by the courts if our liberties are to be upheld," the organisation said.
"The police and security services cannot and should not know everything at all times in a liberal democracy."
The government already has tech firms in its sights. A report last year blamed Facebook in particular for failing to spot messages between the two people who went on to murder fusilier Lee Rigby.
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