CAIRO - British government plans to monitor individual communications without a warrant are inviting a storm of criticism for infringing on personal freedoms.
It is not focusing on terrorists or criminals. It is absolutely everybody, Conservative lawmaker David Davis told The New York Times on Monday, April 2.
He said the new measures would give authorities far greater powers to intrude into private areas.0
Historically, governments have been kept out of our private lives.
The British government has unveiled plans to introduce a new law to allow authorities to force Internet providers to install hardware to examine communications without a warrant.
The eavesdroping would target phone calls, e-mails, text messages and Internet users.
Currently, the government eavesdroppers need a warrant to monitor specific communications.
British authorities argue that the new measure was designed to keep pace with rapidly changing communications technology.
According to a statement by the Home Office, the new system would permit the authorities to track communications data such as time, duration and dialing numbers of a phone call or an e-mail address.
It does not include the content of any phone call or e-mail and it is not the intention of the government to make changes to the existing legal basis for the interception of communications, the statement said.
A similar proposal was made in 2006 by the then Labour-led government but it was abandoned after ferocious opposition from lawmakers and civil rights groups.
Human rights groups and lawmakers criticized the proposed measure as endangering individual freedoms.
No amount of scare-mongering can hide the fact the planned law had been attacked by lawmakers in all major parties, Nick Pickles, director of a pro-privacy group called Big Brother Watch, told The New York Times.
The government has offered no justification for what is unprecedented intrusion into our lives, nor explained why promises made about civil liberties are being junked.
Liberal Democrat lawmakers warned that the plans could endanger personal freedoms with police officers who frequency might not be secure.
The problem we have had in the past is this information has been leaked, lost, stolen, said Malcolm Bruce, a Liberal Democrat lawmaker.
I think there would be very, very real concerns that it could be open to all kinds of abuse.
We have had a situation where police have been selling information to the media, he said, referring to testimony at a judicial inquiry into media ethics and practices.
I think we are in a very, very dangerous situation if too much information is being passed around unnecessarily, he said, according to the Press Association news agency.
Britain has been described by human rights group Privacy International as the worst EU member in terms of protecting individuals' privacy.
British Information Commissioner Richard Thomas had admitted that Britain was turning into a "surveillance society".
There are 4.2 million CCTV cameras spreading across Britain with each Briton being captured about 300 times a day on camera.