The Home Office is coming under increasing pressure over its controversial plans to build a system to monitor and store internet browsing and email data.
The government has been pushing its Communications Data Bill for a year despite complaints from cross party MPs — including Deputy Prime Minster Nick Clegg — and human rights watchers who claim the measures to track message header information as well as social media records would be too intrusive.
According to the Home Office, the bill is necessary to give police and intelligence services access to data to catch criminals, but a group of leading security experts has written to Prime Minister David Cameron bemoaning the cost and impact of the measures.
In a letter signed by Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at Cambridge University’s computer laboratory, Angela Sasse, professor of human-centred technology at UCL and Ian Brown, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, the academics called for Cameron to call a halt to the proposals.
“One year ago, we learnt that the Home Secretary intended to resurrect plans to monitor every British person’s internet activity,” they wrote in a letter seen by The Times.
“One year on, the plans remain as naive and technically dangerous as when they were floated by the last Government. It seems government has not learnt the lessons of that ill-fated legislation and is intent on trying to foist on to the internet a surveillance system designed for landline telephones.”
Putting in place a system for filtering content for use by police would cost an estimated £1.8bn, according to government figures, although critics claim the costs could balloon.
According to the academics’ letter, the money would be better spent improving the digital skills of police so they could better deal with the information they already have access to.