Home Secretary hit by parliamentary backlash over scheme to extend powers to monitor emails
Theresa May faced criticism from across the political spectrum and from civil liberties groups yesterday over her plans to give police and security services the power to monitor the email traffic and internet use of every person in Britain.
The Information Commissioner Christopher Graham, who has previously made clear he does not believe such plans are justified - warned the Home Secretary that he would press for safeguards to protect privacy.
Amid criticism that the scheme runs counter to Tory and Liberal Democrat pre-election opposition to the "Big Brother" scheme, Ms May has been summoned before MPs to justify her proposals. Under legislation in next month's Queen's Speech, law enforcement agencies will gain extra powers to access information about contacts through Skype and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Internet companies will also reportedly be told to install hardware allowing GCHQ to examine "on demand" any phone call made, text message or email sent and website accessed, in "real time" and without a warrant. Similar proposals were abandoned in 2009 by the Labour government.
Downing Street said yesterday that any moves would cover details of when messages were sent and who the recipients were, but stressed it would not include the contents of calls and emails. The Prime Minister's spokesman also said the plans would be "consistent" with his commitment to civil liberties.
But Ms May, in an article in Tthe Sun today, launches a fierce defence of the plans, arguing that such data helps to catch killers and paedophiles.
However, Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs demanded a rethink. Dominic Raab, the Tory MP for Esher and Walton, predicted: "There will be a groundswell of opinion, both about the privacy aspects and the value of this as a law-enforcement measure. …