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  1. ITV Report

Police 'to be given power to view web browsing history of everyone in the country'

Police may soon be granted powers to access the internet browsing history of everybody in the country, under a new bill set to be unveiled in full next week.

Police may be granted the power to view everybody's browsing history in next week's bill Credit: PA

Senior officers have lobbied for telecommunications companies to be forced to keep information on all users' activity for 12 months, with detectives able to view it at any point subject to a judge-approved warrant.

According to the Telegraph, Home Secretary Theresa May plans to include the powers in the government's new surveillance bill, which will be introduced in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

It is thought this would allow officers to access a list of specific web addresses visited by customers, as well as seize details of the website and searches made by the user.

Speaking to The Times, the National Police Chiefs' Council spokesman for data communication, Richard Berry, said forces were not asking for anything beyond their current powers covering telephone conversations.

We want to police by consent, and we want to ensure that privacy safeguards are in place. But we need to balance this with the needs of the vulnerable and the victims.

We essentially need the 'who, where, when and what' of any communication - who initiated it, where were they and when did it happened. And a little bit of the 'what', were they on Facebook, or a banking site, or an illegal child-abuse image-sharing website?

Five years ago (a suspect) could have physically walked into a bank and carried out a transaction. We could have put a surveillance team on that but now, most of it is done online. We just want to know about the visit.

– Richard Berry, NPCC
The controversial plans have already come under criticism Credit: PA

The controversial plans have already come under criticism, with Tory MP David Davis saying it was "extraordinary" that police would ask for such power.

"They are overreaching and there is no proven need to retain such data for a year," he said.

A previous attempt to change the law over communications data, labelled a "snooper's charter" by critics, was halted by the Liberal Democrats under the coalition government over privacy concerns.

But Theresa May has previous told the Commons that by not granting updated power to security and enforcement services, they were technologically behind the criminals they were trying to track.

I've said many times before that it is not possible to debate the balance between privacy and security, including the rights and wrongs of intrusive powers and the oversight arrangements that govern them without also considering the threats that we face as a country.

Those threats remain considerable and they are evolving. They include not just terrorism from overseas and home-grown in the UK, but also industrial, military and state espionage.

They include not just organised criminality, but also the proliferation of once physical crimes online, such as child sexual exploitation. And the technological challenges that that brings.

In the face of such threats we have a duty to ensure that the agencies whose job it is to keep us safe have the powers they need to do the job.

– Theresa May, Home Secretary