UK Government to Introduce Bill to Force ISPs to Hand Over User Data

The anti-terrorism legislation that is going to be introduced in the UK parliament on November 26 will require Internet service providers to hand over user data to government agencies. The bill is expected to become a law before the country goes to the polls in May.

Theresa May

Photo: UK Home Office

The new bill will restrict people from traveling abroad with the objective of joining extremist organizations like ISIS and stop insurance companies from providing insurance protection for terrorist ransoms.

Theresa May, Britain’s Home Secretary, says that these measures are required to handle the threat that the UK faces today.

She also said that ever since the September 11 attacks, there has never been a time when the threat was greater than what it is now.

“We are engaged in a struggle that is fought on many fronts and in many forms. It is a struggle that will go on for many years. And the threat we face right now is perhaps greater than it ever has been. We must have the powers we need to defend ourselves.”

The proposed law will make it mandatory for ISPs to retain information about Internet protocol (IP) addresses and provide this information to government agencies upon request to track users’ online activities.

IP addresses are numbers used to identify computers on the Internet. Every computer connected to the Internet has a unique IP address.

According to the head of the Metropolitan Police Service, the authorities thwarted as many as five terrorist attacks in 2014, compared to one attempted terrorist attack on average during each of the last few years.

In August, the UK government had increased its terror threat level to ‘severe,’ which is the second highest level.

Traveler Data

The Counterterrorism and Security Bill will have measures to prevent Islamic State extremists from returning to the UK unless they are willing to be subjected to movement restrictions and surveillance.

The new bill will also give government agencies the power to seize the passports of anyone thought to be an Islamist fighter. Airlines will also be forced to hand over passenger data to government authorities.

The UK government is worried about the role the Internet plays in attracting Britons to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria and the potential threats to national security if they return to the country.

This month, Robert Hannigan, the director of GCHQ, said that companies like Facebook and Twitter are ‘in denial’ about the role they play in spreading Islamic terrorism across the world.

In July, the government also passed emergency legislation that requires companies to keep text, phone call, and email data for one year to assist law-enforcement agencies. Theresa May had proposed a broader bill in 2013.

However, the government was forced to scrap the Communications Data Bill dubbed ‘Snooper’s Charter’ over fears that it might lead to the violation of civil liberties. The bill allowed security agencies to review records of social media messaging and website visits.

The Liberal Democrats that opposed the ‘Snooper’s Charter’, however, welcomed the new bill. The party said that this was exactly what they needed to work on, and ruled out the possibility of the illiberal Communications Data Bill returning under the coalition government. The Liberal Democrats is one of the parties that support Cameron’s coalition government.

About 500 Britons have reportedly traveled to join the ISIS. The government is worried about its people becoming radicalized by extremist ideology spread via the Internet.