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Police to get internet data powers

Police are to get powers to force internet firms to hand over details that could help identify suspected terrorists and paedophiles.

The Anti-Terrorism and Security Bill will oblige internet service providers (ISPs) to retain information linking Internet Protocol (IP) addresses to individual users.

Home Secretary Theresa May said the measure would boost national security - but again complained that Liberal Democrats were blocking further steps.

"Loss of the capabilities on which we have always relied is the great danger we face," Mrs May said. "The Bill provides the opportunity to resolve the very real problems that exist around IP resolution and is a step in the right direction towards bridging the overall communications data capability gap.

"But I believe we need to make further changes to the law.

"It is a matter of national security and we must keep on making the case for the Communications Data Bill until we get the changes we need."

However, the Lib Dems insisted that legislation - branded the "Snooper's Charter" - was "dead and buried".

The party also stressed that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had been calling for the IP measures since spring 2013.

"It is good news that the Home Office has finally got round to producing proposals on this after being repeatedly asked by Nick Clegg. These can now be agreed and acted on in the upcoming Bill," a Lib Dem spokesman said.

"This is exactly the kind of thing that we need to take action on, rather than proposing an unnecessary, unworkable and disproportionate Snooper's Charter. There is absolutely no chance of that illiberal Bill coming back under the Coalition Government - it's dead and buried.

"The issue of IP address matching only resurfaced as a result of deeply misleading claims made in Theresa May's conference speech. That is what has prompted the Home Office to stop sitting on their hands."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "We have called for Theresa May to strengthen the law on domestic violence for some time, so I hope these suggested measures make a difference.

"However the Government is still doing too little to enforce the present law, where the proportion of domestic violence cases reaching prosecution or conviction is falling, even though reported cases are going up. Under Theresa May domestic violence courts and refuges are closing and specialist domestic violence police officers are being cut.

"Unfortunately despite the measures being briefed today, under Theresa May the clock is being turned back on violence against women."

Emma Carr, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: "It is perfectly reasonable that powers to provide the police with the ability to match an IP address to the person using that service is investigated. However, if such a power is required, then it should be subject to the widespread consultation and comprehensive scrutiny that has been sorely lacking to date with industry, civil society and the wider public when it comes to introducing new surveillance powers.

"Before setting her sights on reviving the snoopers' charter, the Home Secretary should address the fact that one of the biggest challenges facing the police is making use of the huge volume of data that is already available, including data from social media and internet companies. The snoopers' charter would not have addressed this, while diverting billions from investing in skills and training for the police."

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