The UK government is pushing ahead with plans to increase official communications and surveillance powers, and has introduced the Investigatory Powers Bill during the Queen's Speech.
This had already been promised by home secretary Theresa May, who used the post-election celebrations to discuss a return to the so-called Snoopers' Charter.
The bill will "modernise the law on communications data", according to the government, and shore up the protections that keep citizens safe.
This is very much in line with the promises made by May, and the Conservative plans were confirmed when parts of the speech leaked out earlier.
"For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: 'As long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.' It's often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that's helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance," said David Cameron at the time.
"This government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach. As the party of one nation, we will govern as one nation and bring our country together. That means actively promoting certain values."
The Government has announced the Investigatory Powers Bill. It would increase police and GCHQ's data collection and retention powers.— Open Rights Group (@OpenRightsGroup) May 27, 2015
The Investigatory Powers Bill appears on page 64 of the official speech (PDF), and is billed as an overhaul to existing rules that cover up some capability gaps and accessibility problems.
Seems the Investigatory Powers Bill might be the rewrite of all surveillance legislation that had been hinted at. https://t.co/E4hr1T5XBF— Eric King (@e3i5) May 27, 2015
"The legislation covers all investigatory powers including communications data, where the government has long maintained that the gaps in capabilities are putting lives at risk," said the speech.
"The legislation will enable the continuation of the targeting of terrorist communications and other capabilities."
The announcement has drawn immediate criticism. The interim leader of the UK Pirate Party, George Walkden, said that this is another example of an official attempt to weaken citizen rights and civil liberties.
"The Pirate Party will oppose them every step of the way. The innocent-sounding phrase 'New legislation will modernise the law on communications data' heralds the return of the Snoopers' Charter, and the Pirate Party will once again fight against this unprecedented attack on our privacy," he said.
The information provided by the government is vague and light on detail, and it is likely that future announcements will clarify the government's position on surveillance. For now rights groups are concerned.
"The government is signalling that it wants to press ahead with increased powers of data collection and retention for the police and GCHQ, spying on everyone whether suspected of a crime or not," added Jim Killock, executive director at the Open Rights Group.
"This is the return of the Snoopers' Charter, even as the ability to collect and retain data gets less and less workable. We should expect attacks on encryption, which protects all our security. Data collection will create vast and unnecessary expense."
Antony Walker, deputy CEO of techUK, urged the government to ensure it consults widely on the proposed Bill to ensure it is fit for purpose.
“It is right that the powers governing communications data must be fit for purpose in the digital age," he said.
"We encourage the government to consult in detail with the industry to ensure a clear legal framework that provides trust and clarity for the public and for businesses providing communications services. It matters that we get the detail right."
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