The Government has defended its plans to extend police powers which would allow them to access telephone and email records, despite fears that it would lead to further invasions of privacy.
The Home Secretary Theresa May claims that the new so-called 'snooping laws' are necessary to help protect law-abiding UK citizens, and claimed that they could be used in future to break paedophile rings like that exposed recently in Rochdale.
The new laws would oblige telephone and internet providers to record customer phone calls and save emails sent and websites visited. However, the data would only be accessible by police, the security services and the Inland Revenue, allaying parliamentary fears that it could be abused by councils and other agencies.
"We are ensuring the capabilities of the police and our Security Services to catch criminals, to stop paedophile rings and to put people behind bars to continue in an age where people are communicating through different means," she told BBC Radio 4.
MPs and civil liberties groups have expressed fears that this marks yet another major invasion into privacy; however, Mrs May claims that the data would only be used proportionately and when absolutely necessary.
At present law enforcement and security agencies have access to phone records and details of online activity. The new provisions would go further by giving them access to recordings of actual conversations.
Defending the plans she said that the data currently accessible was used in almost all organised crime investigations and in every counter-terrorism case, and that new laws were simply an extension to bring legal provisions for the 21st century.
"In the new world people communicate in different ways. They are no longer using telephones. They communicate over the internet, so we want to update the ability of the police and the security services have to have access to this communications data," she told the BBC.
The police are also keen to acquire these new powers, saying that they will help to save lives.
The draft Communications Data Bill was published this week.
'Snooping' laws will stop paedophile rings, says Theresa May (The Telegraph)