Police and MI5 will be able to see paedophiles and terrorists connecting to w…
Police and MI5 will be able to see sex offenders and terrorists connecting to websites, under new revised laws.
The Home Office will over the next 12 months update the “Internet Connections Records” in a bid to provide investigators with more tools to catch dangerous criminals.
The Daily Express understands this will give police, the National Crime Agency and Britain’s intelligence agencies the ability to see who is looking at a website.
Previously, investigators would not have been able to see who else was connecting to the illegal material.
A source gave the example of how they’d be able to hunt paedophiles viewing and sharing child sex abuse images, rather than having to “break a door down” and see what sites a suspect had viewed.
They said: “The internet connections record is more around being able to find who is connecting to websites of concern.
“You will particularly see this being used in child sexual exploitation cases, but it could also be used for national security cases.”
One official went further, saying the move could “revolutionise” the ability of investigators to prosecute serious criminals.
Ministers are concerned that “without making changes, the ability of our agencies to tackle evolving threats – including terrorism, state threats and serious crime – will be increasingly constrained”.
The Government has warned: “In the face of global instability and technological advancements, now is not the time for inaction.
“This Bill will make urgent and targeted amendments to the Investigatory Powers Act to ensure that our intelligence agencies have the right tools at their disposal to keep the country safe.”
MI5 and the National Crime Agency will also now be allowed to access many of the same datasets used by public companies, the Daily Express understands.
Sources stressed this will simply bring them in line with many companies, which holds and uses personal data legally.
The Government stated: “The UK has less ability to retain and examine bulk personal datasets than our closest allies.
“Whilst this reflects the UK’s longstanding commitment to privacy and our strong international reputation for protecting human rights, the British public rightly also expect our intelligence agencies to be able to access data in a closely controlled way in order to investigate the most serious crimes like child abuse and terrorism.
“The UK’s existing regime for using publicly available data is much more restrictive than our closest allies.
“Currently a warrant approved by both the Secretary of State and a Judicial Commissioner is required to enable retention and examination of information that is already publicly available.
“The changes in the Bill will maintain high oversight standards while bringing us in line with international partners.”
Tech companies fear the changes will block the rollout of new privacy features for messaging apps.
Companies will be obliged to tell the Home Office about any new privacy or security features “they want to add, including encryption”.
Meredith Whittaker, president of private messaging group Signal, urged ministers to provide more clarity on what she described as a “bellicose” proposal amid fears that, if enacted, the new legislation would allow ministers and officials to veto the introduction of new safety features.
“We will need to see the details, but what is being described suggests an astonishing level of technically confused government over-reach that will make it nearly impossible for any service, homegrown or foreign, to operate with integrity in the UK.”
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has led warnings that Meta’s plans to introduce end-to-end encryption for messages on Facebook and Instagram would create a safe haven for criminals.
Officials believe the controversial plans will lead to the number of child abuse images or videos being referred to the National Crime Agency falling by 92 per cent from Facebook and 85 per cent from Instagram.
The Daily Express understands Meta has not offered any mitigations to protect children from perverts messaging them on Facebook and Instagram.
The Silicon Valley giant, in discussion with the Home Office, has primarily insisted that it will detect “indicators” of abuse and intervene on publicly visible areas of the sites.
Experts fear Meta is failing to understand how predators use their platforms, with many offering little or no clues about the horrific content they are sending or receiving in private conversations.
This means investigators will lose the vast majority of leads into potential cases of abuse they receive.
The Daily Express understands the National Crime Agency is concerned the threat posed by paedophiles online is growing.
Perverts are seeking more depraved content and the victims are getting younger, this newspaper has been told.
Some of the content being exchanged in social media chats is so graphic it was compared by one source to “the torture of children”.
If Meta were to introduce end-to-end encryption, only those who send or receive the messages will be able to read it.
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