British web users will be facing unprecedented surveillance under new government legislation that comes into force today.
December 30th marks the date that the Investigatory Powers Act, also known as the ‘Snooper’s Charter’ officially comes into force, allowing the government to collect data on anyone.
The government says that the new laws will primarily be used to combat serious crimes such as terrorism, but campaigners have warned that it could lead to innocent people being convicted of offences they didn’t commit.
The new legislation, described as “world-leading” by home secretary Amber Rudd, will primarily be used to carry out bulk email surveillance, as authorities look to monitor communications between suspects.
However it could also be used to monitor other personal information, including phone records and web browsing history, with web and phone companies required to store this information for 12 months.
The companies would also need to be able to provide police, security services and official agencies with access to this data whenever required.
Law enforcement agencies would also be given powers to hack into the computers and mobile devices of potential suspects.
However the life of the new Act could be short-lived following a successful challenge in EU courts last week.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that “general and indiscriminate retention of data” is against EU law in an embarrassing retort to Prime Minister Theresa May.
The court did admit that combatting crime was a legitimate use for the information, but the laws could now be open to change or even withdrawal if there is enough opposition.
Once the UK leaves the European Union, however, the choice may become arbitrary, as the ECJ would then have no authority here.
The challenge was initially supported by Tory MP David Davis and Labour deputy leader Tom Watson, with the former arguing that the Government was “treating the entire nation as suspects” without safeguards on retaining and accessing personal communications data.
The Government argued the powers were essential in the fight against terrorism.
Mr Davis later withdrew his name from the case following his appointment to Government in July as Brexit Secretary.