UK to consider forcing Internet companies to hand over user data

Lawmakers in the United Kingdom this week will introduce legislation requiring Internet service providers to keep records on their users in order to hand them over to the government during an investigation.  

Home Secretary Theresa May said in a speech in London on Monday that the current threat facing the U.K. “is perhaps greater than it ever has been.”

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“We must have the powers we need to defend ourselves,” she added while outlining the new bill headed to parliament this week.

In addition to requiring Web companies to keep the Internet protocol (IP) addresses of their users in order to identify them, the bill would also reportedly call for schools, universities and prisons to take steps to prevent people from turning into terrorists, give the government more power to cancel passports and increase aviation security, among other measures.

As the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is rising, May said, the U.K. government needed extra tools to be able to defend itself.

“This legislation is important,” May said. “It is a properly considered, thought-through set of proposals that will help to keep us safe at a time of very significant danger.”

If enacted, the law would be a serious escalation of the country’s ability to monitor suspected terrorists on the Internet and would surely draw blowback from civil liberties defenders.

The opposition Liberal Democratic party have previously opposed a stronger proposal that would force companies to keep people’s communications on file for a year in order to hand over to police, which critics termed a “snooper’s charter.”

Nick Clegg, the leader of that party, has said that the new proposal is “sensible,” according to the BBC.